Top Ten

10 Places to See the Cherry Blossoms in Japan

It’s that time again – the cherry blossoms are blooming all across Japan. Where should you go for the best gardens and most spectacular views? Here are our top ten picks in our 10 to 1 countdown format.

10: Kyoto

Known as Tokyo’s less expensive cousin, Kyoto has many great holiday ideas and an even better way to begin your cherry blossom journey. See the trees at Kiyomizudera Temple, enjoy the light shows of Maruyama Park at night-time, or even walk the famed The Philosopher’s Path – a 2km trek overflowing with cherry blossom trees, so named for a great Japanese philosopher who used their beauty for meditation during his daily walks.

9: Fukuoka
Step into history with a trip to Fukuoka, where castles and local shrines make the city a blast from the past. Enjoy the beauty of Nishi Park, catch a dizzying view from the hilltops of the Atago Shrine, or just mosey on over to Maizuru Park, where hundreds of cherry trees bloom among the ruins of Fukuoka Castle. Standing among the remnants of another time, you’ll be reminded that once, hundreds of years ago, the feudal lords of Japan were viewing the very same trees.

Cherry blossom at Fukuoka

The photo above shows the cherry blossom at Fukuoka.
Image Courtesy: Zooka Yung

8: Hirosaki

Nicknamed “Castle and Cherry Blossom and Apple Town,” Hirosaki is famous for – you guessed it – a large assortment of castles, cherry blossom trees, and its commercial export of apples. Grab a few and enjoy the views, because the trees here bloom so fast that fallen petals coat the ground like pink-white snow. Some even call it a hanafubuki (falling petal) blizzard!

7: Hakodate

Most cherry trees bloom during the months of March and April, but what if you can’t get away during that time? Don’t worry; you don’t have to miss out! Because of its location in northern Japan, the cherry blossoms of Hakodate don’t typically bloom until early to mid-May. It’s a great place to catch them if you’re on a schedule – or just looking to enjoy the last cherry blossoms of the season.

6: Okayama

Not only is Okayama a casual, inexpensive place – most hotels will only run you $40-70 a night – but it’s also one of the most beautiful places to visit in springtime. And for only 300 yen (a little over $3 USD), you can experience the Handayama Botanical Garden and walk through an actual cherry blossom grove, untouched and unsullied by modern hands.

5: Sapporo

Enjoy cherry blossoms right in the heart of downtown Sapporo! A great holiday idea for those interested in combining cherry blossom viewing with a regular tourist experience, Sapporo will offer movies, music, shops, restaurants, and of course, plenty of local cherry blossom parties.

4: Hiroshima

Once a place of unimaginable tragedy, Hiroshima, has emerged from the ashes as one of the best places to celebrate springtime in Japan. Cherry trees have been planted everywhere – in parks and playgrounds, down by the rivers, lining the streets – and the city itself will bloom with the colors and scents of a new season.

One of the best places to see the blossoms is Hiroshima Peace Park, where over 300 trees come to life each year. 500 yen and you can pay your respects to the fallen in the best way possible – by taking the time to appreciate life, spring, and fresh starts, the very things cherry blossoms symbolize.

3: Kakunodate

Located in the normally snowy Akita Prefecture, Kakunodate is nonetheless the picture of spring during cherry blossom season. Thousands of tourists flock there each year to enjoy their festivals and witness the famous “weeping cherry trees.”

As a bonus, as a former samurai stronghold, Kakunodate is home to dozens of temples, shrines, and historical landmarks, making it a perfect representation of Asian culture and history. Stay in a traditional Japanese villa to complete the experience!

2: Nara

Nara is home to the famous Yoshinoyama, a rugged mountain with thousands of naturally blooming cherry trees. How many, you may be wondering? Try over 30,000!
For a small fee – and even less if you go solo, without a guide – you can climb the mountain and experience the cherry blossoms as few ever do. Take a deep breath of mountain air and enjoy the views on a winding trail all the way up to the cliff-side shrine – by that point, you’ll have earned it.

1: Tokyo

The central hub of Japan, Tokyo is also the best place for viewing cherry blossoms, in no small part thanks to the numerous local parks and gardens where cherry blossom trees have been waiting the entire year to bloom. Enjoy a picnic lunch under the trees of Ueno Park, take a boat ride in Inokashira to see the blossoms from the water, or join a hanami (viewing) party at the Meiji Shrine. Catch a ride at Chidorigafuchi where you can travel via moat around Edo Castle and all its blossoms. Wander over to the Sumida River Park at night-time for trees that are filled with cherry blossoms and lights.

Tokyo Imperial Palace

The photo above shows the Cherry blossoms at the Tokyo Imperial Palace.

Best of all? All these places are completely free! Now that’s a good holiday idea.