Top 14 places in Japan to see cherry blossom

Top 14 places in Japan to see cherry blossom

Once the cherry blossoms (sakura) arrive in Japan, swathes of the country are bathed in pale pink light, with a heavenly scent and thousands of petals floating through the air. Depicted by countless artists and considered an emblem of the country, cherry blossom season is a magnificent sight and one of the best times to visit.

Though it’s tricky to predict exactly when the cherry blossoms will reach full bloom (mankai), you can still enjoy mild weather and lots of spring cultural events this time of year. We’ve included the estimated dates of first bloom and full bloom for optimized cherry blossom viewing.

Here are the most popular destinations for witnessing the sakura spectacle.

1. Kochi

Kochi is the herald of spring, with its early cherry blossoms painting the city pink by late March. The first iconic site of note is the captivating Kochi Castle standing in a sea of cherry blossoms. A brief stroll from the castle leads to the Horikawa Canal, where a stretch of cherry trees adorns the scenic riverbanks for half a mile.

To truly immerse yourself in the floral splendor, visit the Makino Botanical Garden, a vast 14-acre haven dedicated to the renowned botanist Dr. Tomitaro Makino. With over 40 cherry tree varieties, the garden offers a sensory celebration of spring.

2. Fukuoka

Every spring, the ruins of Fukuoka Castle and the surrounding Maizuru Park become a magical place to see sakura. Festivities tend to run from late March to early April, when the cherry blossom trees are illuminated in a variety of colors at night.

Visitors can soak up the atmosphere while wandering the ruins of walls, turrets, and gates in this ancient—yet dynamic—city.

3. Nagoya

Nagoya blooms into a captivating spring canvas as cherry blossoms grace its urban and natural landscapes. The 1,000 cherry trees surrounding Nagoya Castle offer a mesmerizing sight throughout its historic grounds. Meanwhile, the expansive greenery of Meijo Park provides a relaxing setting for cherry blossom picnics with scenic castle views.

Tsuruma Park is also worth a visit to see how it transforms into a vibrant hub for Hanami celebrations with 750 cherry trees and magical nighttime illuminations. The Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens also feature over a thousand cherry trees for a stunning spring spectacle.

4. Hiroshima

Blooming in the last week of March, the cherry blossoms in Hiroshima are not to be missed. The Peace Memorial Park becomes a vibrant hub for festive hanami parties, attracting locals and visitors alike.

Hiroshima Castle’s grounds feature enchanting cherry trees and provide a serene contrast to the nearby Peace Park. If a quieter escape and deeper contemplation are more your thing, consider a trip to nearby Miyajima Island, where you can unwind amid the canopy of pink on many of the island’s walking trails.

5. Kagoshima

The cherry blossoms in Kagoshima unfold against the backdrop of the captivating stratovolcano, Mount Sakurajima. Kagoshima offers a myriad of viewing spots, each with its unique charm. Kannon-ga-ike Citizen’s Forest, renowned for its Somei Yoshino cherry trees along Kannon-ga-ike Pond, is a breathtaking spectacle, especially when illuminated at night.

Maruoka Park, sprawling 66 acres, features about 2,000 cherry trees and draws visitors from afar each year. With a panoramic view of Mount Kirishima, it’s a must-visit destination during the blooming season from late March to late April.

6. Kyoto

The cherry blossoms of Kyoto—a city of temples, traditional gardens, and dazzling imperial palaces—tend to bloom from the last week of March until the middle of April.

Visit the huge, 80-year-old sakura tree weeping over the pond in Maruyama Park, a popular spot for hanami, the Japanese tradition of welcoming spring with food, drink, and music.

Or walk The Philosopher’s Walk, a canal lined with cherry blossoms that cast dappled sunshine through their light pink canopy.

7. Tokyo

Japan’s enormous, technologically advanced capital may seem an unlikely place to revel in nature. But its many Japanese gardens and the surreal sight of blossom petals floating through this fast-paced city make it one of Japan’s sakura hot spots.

For a unique experience, check out the Nihonbashi Sakura Festival, where you’ll find themed light installations, art exhibitions, and even sakura-flavored treats.

8. Wakayama

Let Wakayama’s cherry blossoms narrate the story of a region where history and nature intertwine. Begin your journey at the iconic Wakaura Tenmangu Shrine, where blossoms breathe life into the tranquil surroundings.

Head to the southwestern Kii Peninsula, stop off at Wakayama Castle, and enjoy the floral spectacle that usually begins the last week of March. Venture further to Heisogen Park in Shirahama Town, where 2,000 cherry trees create panoramic views and the perfect setting for a leisurely picnic among blooming petals.

9. Osaka

A city celebrated for its humming party scene, restaurants, and street food, Osaka is a fantastic place to be when the celebratory cherry blossoms arrive. Riverside walkways and gardens are great spots for enjoying the view, with thousands of cherry blossoms planted by the water.

The Osaka Mint Bureau (the Japan Mint headquarters) opens its grounds on the banks of the Yodo River to the public for one week during cherry blossom season. For a personalized experience, book a scenic guided tour rounded off with a picnic of local specialties such as okonomiyaki, a delicious savory pancake.

10. Kanazawa

A castle town treasured for its well-preserved samurai and geisha districts, Kanazawa is even more otherworldly with sakura petals dancing in the wind. You’ll also find one of Japan’s Three Great Gardens here, the Kenroku-en Garden.

With tea houses, twisted ancient trees, and ponds with rare fish and flowers precisely planted for serenity, this is a clear demonstration of the artistry in Japanese gardens.

11. Nagano

Embark on a captivating journey through Nagano, where cherry blossoms take over the landscape each spring with their ephemeral beauty. Begin at Garyu Park, a lively hub where sakura intertwines with a charming riverside market, creating a vibrant atmosphere.

As you explore, take the time to visit Takato Castle Park, home to some of Japan’s most beautiful cherry trees. Finish your adventure at Garyu Koen in Suzaka, where you can enjoy splendid cherry blossoms reflected in the lake.

12. Sendai

Northeast of Tokyo in Japan’s Tohoku Region, you’ll find the city of Sendai and some spectacular sakura. Within the city, there are the hanami-friendly, wide lawns of Mikamine Park, the cherry blossom festival, and the nighttime-illuminated trees of Nishi Park.

Tsutsujigaoka Park also has a variety of Somei Yoshino and weeping cherry trees planted along its paved lanes. To explore even further, make the half-hour drive from Sendai to Saigyo Modoshi no Matsu Park, where you can gaze at cherry blossom trees cloaking the mountainside and sweeping views of Matsushima Bay.

There’s also the Shiogama Shrine or Shiroishi Riverside, both about 30 minutes by train from Sendai and offering breathtaking sakura scenes.

13. Aomori

At the northern tip of Japan’s main island, Honshu, the prefecture of Aomori lays claim to some of the country’s best cherry blossoms. It’s a region of mystic lakes and mountains thick with Hiba cypress, Japanese fir, and ginkgo tree forests.

But it’s the city of Hirosaki—on the grounds of its eponymous 17th-century castle—that hosts some of the most popular hanami celebrations. The Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival features over 2,500 trees, row boat rentals, cherry blossom tunnels to stroll, and sakura illuminated by night.

The best view of the lit-up trees is by Shunyo Bridge on the west side of the park.

14. Sapporo

Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido, a sparsely populated island north of Honshu renowned for its wild and spectacular scenery. When its cherry blossoms come into bloom, this natural beauty is at its peak.

There are lots of places outside the city to witness the spectacle, but Sapporo’s Maruyama Park and adjacent Hokkaido Shrine form one of the most popular hanami party hot spots. Here, 1,400 cherry blossoms and 250 plum blossoms (ume) bloom simultaneously, with a beautiful avenue of trees leading to the shrine and plenty of space in the park for laying picnic blankets beneath the flowers.

Purchase a souvenir bottle of Jingū no ume (a Japanese plum wine) from the shrine. Or wash down your picnic treats with a cup of Jingu no sakura (an herbal tea made with pickled cherry blossoms, seaweed, and black beans).