Sakura: Japan and these cherry blossoms
Spring in Japan is definitely a special time to visit this wonderful country, the land of the rising sun. But before we get into tips on when and where to see these beautiful blossoms, let’s learn a bit more about the origins of the cherry blossom celebration.
Sakura Japan – The Origins of the Cherry Blossom Festival
Spring in Japan has long been synonymous with cherry blossom viewing. While the age-old Japanese pastime has been generously shared with the world for a long time now, it wasn’t until the late 19th century that it began to gain worldwide popularity. The famous tradition of “hanami” (which translates to cherry blossom viewing) is believed to have started all the way back in Japanese history during the Heian period (794-1185), when what began as a practice of viewing and appreciating plum blossoms years before it instead evolved to seeing the blossoms of these fruit trees instead, and “hana” (meaning blossoms) eventually became linked to which also means sakura .
The custom was originally developed uniquely for the elite of the imperial court, but it quickly spread to samurai society throughout Japan and by the Edo period it had also spread to all communities. Japanese shogun Yoshimun proactively planted cherry blossom trees to develop and encourage this practice. It quickly became common to eat lunch and drink sake at picnics under the beautiful trees.
These days in Japan with the cherry blossom season, fleeting as it is, brings millions of visitors around the world to experience the exquisite blossoms in person before it all fades away until the following year. The Japan Meteorological Agency and enthusiastic members of the public follow the “sakura zensen” (front of cherry blossoms of white or pink petals) every year to try to predict the exact dates (or as close as possible) of the blossoms throughout the Japan. It usually starts in January in Okinawa (with its warmer climate) and reaches higher altitude and cooler temperature areas like Hokkaido a few months later.
Hanami is now the tradition of groups of friends, family, co-workers and everyone else coming together to picnic in a Japanese garden and enjoy the splendor of the cherry blossoms. It is a day to consume food and drink and rejoice with everyone. People prepare games and music and often spend whole days under the flowers and the sun, celebrating well into the night.
Although the typical traditional drink for hanami celebrations is sake (Japanese wine), you can also drink tea. Seasonal foods such as “wagashi” (Japanese sweets) and sakura-flavored desserts can also be eaten during this time.
Festival – Spring dates
The first cherry blossoms usually start in January in Okinawa, and from there they will slowly move west through Honshu, to Hokkaido around the end of April. Most tourists will visit the cherry blossoms in areas like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, and this happens around the end of March until the first weeks of April. Depending on the area you are visiting, check regularly for reports on Are Cherry Blossoms Blooming? Most years, the flowering time of a flower (called “mankai”) is reached one week after the opening of the first flower (“kaika”). After another week, peak flowering is usually over and flowers start to fall from the sky. Naturally non-ideal conditions such as a rainy/windy season can further reduce the cherry blossom viewing period. It’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of cherry blossom reports if you’re planning a trip specifically to see them in a particular area.
- Dates for Tokyo – Bloom Date: March 23 and Full Bloom Date: March 31
- Dates for Hakone – Bloom Date: March 22 and Full Bloom Date: March 30
- Dates for Kamakura – Bloom Date: March 22 and Full Bloom Date: March 30
- Dates for Kawaguchiko – Flowering Date: April 4 and Full Flowering Date: April 9
- Dates for Nikko – Flowering Date: April 11 and Full Flowering Date: April 16
- Dates for Sapporo – Bloom Date: May 3 and Full Bloom Date: May 7
- Dates for Nagoya – Flowering Date: March 24 and Full Flowering Date: April 2
- Dates for Kanazawa – Bloom Date: April 4 and Full Bloom Date: April 9
- Dates for Wakayama – Bloom Date: March 23 and Full Bloom Date April 3
- Dates for Osaka – Tokyo – Nara – Flowering date: March 27 – Full flowering date April 4
- Date for Hiroshima – Flowering date: March 24 – Full flowering date April 2
- Dates for Fukuoka – Flowering date: March 23 – Full flowering dateApril 1
- Dates for Kagoshima – Bloom date: March 25 – Full bloom date April 5
Accordingly, here is the best time to see cherry blossoms in the cities listed above.
Keep in mind that these dates are only indicative, which means that as long as you are in the cities mentioned above on the dates we mention, you should be fine.
Now that you know when to go to Japan to see the Sakura, let’s discover the best cherry blossom spots city by city.
The Best Sakura Spots in Tokyo
Each year, more than 800 cherry blossoms bloom on the Meguro River which stretches for 4 kms. This area is particularly special because at night the trees are all lit up with pink light, lining the river and making for an extremely romantic scene to experience.
Along the river there are many open food stalls and people selling unique sakura-flavored items, and among them is the special Meguro, sparkling wine or pink champagne sold by the glass.
This cherry blossom viewing site, which stretches from Azumabashi Bridge to Sakurabashi Bridge over the Sumida River, is one of the most popular spots in all of Tokyo, due to its concentration of cherry blossom trees. sakura flowers (more than 1000). And its location, right by the river. If you position your photo correctly, you can even capture the Tokyo Skytree (Japan’s Broadcasting Tower) in the background.
During cherry blossom season, about 450m of the Haya River is lined with a number of sakura trees. It’s the most beautiful walk along the waters, with pink petals gently falling around you, landing on your hair, the ground, in the water. The Miyagino Cherry Blossom Festival takes place in early April and during this time night cherry blossom viewing is also an activity you can take part in.
- Yoyogi Park (former Olympic Village)
A classic, though not a cherry blossom viewing area per se, Yoyogi Park is the premier destination for hanami picnics. Much like spending New Year’s Eve in Times Square, picnicking at Yoyogi Park is as classic as it gets.
The overflowing charm and bustling atmosphere of this place means that the large crowds hardly detract from the beauty of the place. In fact, being in the moment, surrounded by hundreds of beautiful cherry blossom trees, celebrating with hundreds of other equally grateful people, you probably wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.
- Onshihakone Park
The view from here is one of the best panoramic views you can get. From this vantage point, when you look down and over Lake Ashi, not only will the beauty of the cherry blossoms stun you, but the view of Mount Fuji in the background (on a clear day) will take your breath away. .
Sakura’s Best Spots in Kamakura
- Genjiyama Park – Hiking Trails
One of the most popular places to view cherry blossoms in Kamakura is Genjiyama Park, which is a public park on a mountain. This is an area where nature thrives and attractions such as the spring cherry blossom and fall foliage draw crowds large enough to celebrate its beauty by picnicking under the trees. If you want to tick off a few activities, there are hiking trails accessible through this park that lead to Kitakamakura and Kotokuin.
- Kotokuin Temple – Religious Flower Viewing
Kotokuin Temple is home to the Great Buddha of Kamakura, making it a popular year-round site for visitors wanting to capture a glimpse and photo of the awe-inspiring statue. However, during cherry blossom season, the appeal of the statue is taken up a notch. Although there aren’t as many trees here as other cherry blossom vantage points, the strategically placed statue and planted flowers mean that once you get the right angle, the flowers will frame beautifully the statue, presenting you with an image you won’t be able to see anywhere else.
Sakura’s Best Spots in Kawaguchiko
- Chureito Pagoda – Famous Cherry Blossom Viewing Site
If you’ve ever been looking for cherry blossoms from Japan, chances are you’ve come across a picture of the blossoms taken from the Chureito Pagoda. It is so famous as a cherry blossom viewing point that many professional photographers make it their ultimate destination to capture the beauty of the flowers that represent Japan. Be warned, you will have to climb around 400 steps to get to the pagoda, but the breathtaking view of the area, with Mount Fuji in the background, pale pink petals falling around you and flower branches framing your photo will make totally worthwhile hike.
Lake Kawaguchiko – A beautiful lake surrounded by flowers
Lake Kawaguchiko is an absolute must when visiting the Kawaguchi area. As one of the most popular lakes in the Fuji Five Lakes group, it has made a name for itself for a reason! It’s one of the most scenic lakes you’ve ever come across, and with cherry blossoms lining the northern shores, you’ll be hard pressed to find a spot as stunning as this to get a panoramic shot of the flowers. The best place to see them is on the lakeside boardwalk near Kawaguchiko Musical Forest.
Sakura’s best spots in Nikko
- Sakura Namiki Street – The whole flower street
During the blooming season, the most attractive street to view the flowers is Sakura Namiki Street (which translates to the street lined with cherry trees). There are about 100 trees lining this street on a 300m long path. For those looking for a no frills stroll to take in the scenery, this is the best option in Nikko, quiet, pure, away from the crowds, and you can set your own pace.
- Kinugawa Onsen – A beautiful cherry blossom illumination
For a certain period, usually during the full bloom of the flowers, the Kinugawa Onsen area lights up their cherry blossoms every night for 7 nights. This is a very popular option for anyone visiting the Nikko area during the blooming season, as they often hold the ‘Night Cherry Blossom Party’ where attendees gather and picnic around their specially prepared boxed bento. .
Sakura’s Best Spots in Sapporo
- Moerenuma Park – Art and Cherry Blossoms
The famous park designed by Isamu Noguchi is not only a great destination to explore your inner creative artist, but it is also a wonderful destination in Sapporo to see cherry blossoms in northern Japan. There is a section in the park that is condensed with a grove of cherry blossoms, which provide a great photo opportunity. You can spend the rest of the day exploring the trails, hanging out at the playground, and exploring the famous Glass Pyramid Museum. If you want a panoramic shot, climb the hill of Mount Moere, the view from the top is stunning.
- Maruyama Park and Hokkaido Shrine
If you want to picnic among cheerful crowds, take a picture of a path lined with beautiful cherry blossoms, and also visit an important shrine in the same place, then you’re in luck, you can do all of that at Maruyama Park. , which is located next to the Hokkaido Shrine. Although you cannot picnic near the shrine itself as it is sacred, there are many designated picnic spots and you cannot miss it with the crowds. Many street food stalls will be lined up if you haven’t prepared food in advance.
Sakura’s Best Spots in Nagoya
- Nagoya Castle – Flowers Among Historic Structures
The famous castle is probably the most famous place in Nagoya to see cherry blossoms due to the stunning contrast of the pink flowers against the pure white details of the castle. In the spring, tours here are notoriously busy, but with over 1,000 cherry blossom trees surrounding the keep, there will be space for everyone to take a great photo. During high season, we recommend visiting at night, as the castle and the cherry blossoms light up and it really is too pretty for words.
- Shiratori Garden – Weeping Flowering Trees
Another popular destination for cherry blossoms in Japan, Shiratori Garden is unique in that it is home to weeping cherry trees (cherry blossoms that, instead of spreading their long, straight branches, have soft, malleable branches that fall to the ground). They are rather unique, especially since they are located next to the river. It is also very easy to access, being located in the city.
The best spots in Kanazawa
- Kanazawa Castle Park – A Castle with a Story
The tower of Kanazawa Castle burned down in 1602, so unfortunately what you see when you visit are only the remains of the residence of the Maeda clan who ruled Kaga Domain. However, when you see the beauty of the place during cherry blossom season, you won’t see the remains as a deterrent to the site, but rather it adds to the raw, natural magnificence of the place. The soft pink hues of the flowers contrasting with the strong white and brown strokes of the castles really set the stage for a breathtaking view of cherry blossoms.
- Kenrokuen Park – The most popular place in all of Kanazawa
Besides being a beautiful destination for viewing cherry blossoms, Kenrokuen Garden is also considered Kanazawa’s top tourist destination, so why not kill two birds with one stone and visit it in the spring? It is one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan and is home to over 400 cherry blossom trees of almost 40 different varieties. It also lights up at night simply stunning.
Sakura’s Best Spots in Wakayama
- Wakayama Castle
Considered one of the most beautiful castles, when you visit Wakayama Castle during the flower season, there will be no words to describe it. Around 600 trees bloom inside the castle grounds, and they emit a sweet cherry scent during the peak of the season, invigorating all your senses. The trees surrounding the castle light up at night and become one of the most impressive sights you will ever see.
- Sada Grounds (Shichilkawa River Dam)
The banks of this river will give you a wide open view of around 3000 cherry blossom trees lining the hillsides and hills and forests in the distance. It’s a unique sight, not seen much by tourists due to its location, and therefore smaller crowds and less hype means more solitude and peace when breathing in the fresh air and admire the beautiful view in front of you. There is a Koza River Flower Festival held every year where people eat, drink and celebrate the splendor of flowers in harmony.
Best Sakura Spots in Osaka – Kyoto and Nara
- Expo 70 Memorial Park – Kayama Castle
Enjoy the flowers for a whole day, beauty everywhere you look, this park is one of the most visited parks in all of Osaka during cherry blossom season. Her beauty is known all over Japan. Being located in Suita, it is easily accessible by train from the city. A large number of 5000 cherry blossom trees are planted in this park, which means you can spend hours walking among the trees, taking your time to take it all in. There are small stalls set up where you can buy food and souvenirs to take home. Have a picnic and watch the petals fall while sipping sake, this park is the perfect place to enjoy your hanami picnic.
- Arashiyama – Nature at its best
While the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest has grown exponentially in popularity in recent years, most foreigners don’t know that Arashiyama is also where locals have been going for many years to see the cherry blossoms as well. . It’s a scenic spot that paints absolutely the perfect picture of cherry blossoms in an ancient historic Japanese city setting, with the Kamogawa River with over 1500 cherry blossom trees shining during the day and illuminating the city at night. If you fancy doing something out of the ordinary, hope on a boat and it will take you gently down the river for a different perspective on the cherry blossoms. Take a full day in Arashiyama and visit the bamboo forests while you’re there.
- Nara Park – Flowers and deer
Nara Park is Nara’s most popular attraction, and deservedly the deer are some of the cutest you’ll ever see. During cherry blossom season, around 1,700 cherry trees (including Higan cherry, Yoshino cherry, Yamazakura mountain cherry, Narakokonoe cherry, weeping cherry, and Satozakura cherry) line the huge park. When you visit the deer during this time, capturing the flowers in the background will make your experience and images infinitely more memorable and amazing.
The Best Sakura Spots in Hiroshima
- Miyajima Island – Island of Floating Torii Gates
Miyajima Island is already one of Japan’s most scenic islands, but if you go there during cherry blossom season, the flowers take the beauty up a million notches. The Sakura trees sweep over the mountains, hills, streets and gardens are quite a magical sight. If you visit the island, we recommend that you go to Momiji-dani Koen where there is a high concentration of cherry trees and walking around will make you nostalgic and / or see the flowers of the 5-story pagoda, where to capture the pagoda framed by the surrounding cherry blossoms will make for a stunning picture. At night, the whole island is lit up during peak bloom season, and it’s just stunning, words can’t describe.
- Shukkei-en Garden – Peace and Tranquility
While the Peace Memorial Park draws crowds every year to celebrate hanami, some people frown upon considering it a bad taste. However, the nearby Shukkei-en Garden, whose beauty also attracts couples who want their wedding photos taken there, is a wonderful and lesser-known place to view cherry blossoms. Weekends are a bit crowded.
Sakura’s Best Spots in Fukuoka
- Uminonakamichi Seaside Park
This seaside park is famous throughout Japan for its various seasonal flower festivals, but the Cherry Blossom Festival is perhaps the most stunning yet. During the season, there are around 2000 cherry trees blooming all over the park with manicured lawns, playgrounds… Some of the best Hanami parties are held here, and visitors flock here due to its size, there also has different walking paths and cycle paths where you can rent a bike.
- Nishi Park
Nishi Park is one of the most popular places to enjoy cherry blossoms in Fukuoka city itself. Due to its location as a hillside park, it offers stunning panoramic views of Fukuoka City and Terumo Shrine, which draws crowds. It is considered one of the top 100 cherry blossom viewing spots in Japan. You can also head to the viewing platform to enjoy the view to capture the perfect picture. The park lit up at night means you can stay all evening.