Sakura in spring

20 Nov 2012

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What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Japan?

Perhaps it's the perfectly presented sushi.  Maybe it's the mystery of Geisha girls or the strange sport of sumo wrestling. For many, it's the the beautiful cherry blossoms, known in Japan as sakura.

Funnily enough, these famous flowers are usually only in full bloom for about a week. After this time, the flowers begin to flutter gracefully from their trees.  However, many people consider this to be the most spectacular sight of all, as delicate white and pink petals cover the ground.

There's more to this spring spectacle than just a pretty picture.  For Japanese people, the blooming of the cherry blossom trees symbolises human life, transience and nobleness which explains why they love to celebrate and cherish the cherry blossoms trees during the limited flowering period with hanami, a ‘flower watching’ party.

If you're going to be in Japan during spring, seeing the cherry blossoms in bloom is a must. Below are our recommendations for the best viewing spots. Bear in mind, these suggested viewing dates are subject to change due to change due to weather conditions.

Hokkaido

Matsumae Park

The Matsumae Park proudly boasts of being the site of some 10,000 cherry trees of 250 different varieties.

  • Bloom Period: Late April to early May
  • Access: From Tokyo, 1hr 20 min flight to Hakodate and 2hr 50 min from Hakodate Station to Matsumae by bus.

Hirosaki Park, Aomori

The park is surrounded by a triple moat and earthworks and is famous in Japan for its spectacular cherry blossoms in spring. The Hirosaki Sakura-Matsuri (cherry blossom festival) is held in late April and is one of the two most spectacular festivals in Hirosaki.

  • Bloom Period: Late April to early May
  • Access: 5hr from Tokyo via Hachinohe (JR Tohoku Shinkansen Line) to Hirosaki Station by JR Tohoku Line.

Ka-jo Castle Park, Yamagata

Ka-jo Castle Park is noted for its cherry blossoms and the 1500 cherry trees in the park are lit up at night to attract visitors.

  • Bloom Period: Mid to Late April
  • Access: 10min walk from Yamagata Station (2hr 30min From Tokyo to Yamagata Station by JR Yamagata Shinkansen Line).

Kakunodate, Akita

Kakunodate is a quiet town in the east of Akita. It is enclosed on three sides by mountains, and the Hinokinai-gawa River runs southwards through it. The Hinokinai-gawa River is lined with cherry trees for two kilometers. The tunnel of cherry blossoms that forms along the riverbanks in spring is beautiful, and has been designated as a national beauty spot.

  • Bloom Period: Mid April to early May
  • Access: 3hr 25 min from Tokyo to Kakunodate Station by JR Akita Shinkansen Line.

Takada Park, Niigata

The park includes over 4000 cherry blossom trees which are illuminated at night to fascinate passers by. The park is well regarded as one of the three most beautiful night view points to enjoy cherry blossoms.

  • Bloom Period: Early to Mid April
  • Access: A 20 min walk from JR Takada Station which is 2hr 30min away from Tokyo by train.

Tokyo and Surroundings

Ueno-onshi-koen Park, Tokyo

The park is particularly crowded in early April when people gather to enjoy the view of the wonderful cherry blossoms.

  • Bloom Period: Late March to April
  • Access: 5 min from Tokyo Station to Ueno Station by JR Yamanote Line.

Chidori-ga-fuchi, Tokyo

Close to the Imperial Palace, this park is a classic spot for viewing the glorious cherry blossoms. This area boasts of having the largest number of people coming to view the cherry blossoms in Tokyo during the beginning of April.

  • Bloom Period: Late March to Early April
  • Access: A 20-minute walk from Tokyo Station or a 5-minute walk from Tokyo Metro Kudanshita/Hanzomon Station.

Hitsuji-yama Park, Chichibu, Tokyo

More than 400,000 bulbs have been used to create a field of pink moss designed to make a pattern on the hill of Hitsuji-yama. This flower patchwork of pink, white and purple is spread over 16500 square metres and is truly an amazing sight.

  • Bloom Period: Mid April to Mid May
  • Access: 1hr 23 min from Ikebukuro (Tokyo) to Seibu Chichibu Station by Seibu Ikebukuro Line.

Shinshu

Takato Castle Ruins Park, Nagano

There are over 1,500 ‘kohigan-zakura’ cherry trees in the park. Their blossoms are smaller and more reddish than typical cherry blossoms, and they have been designated a precious natural property of the Nagano prefecture. During blooming periods the blossoms are illuminated at night, and the park becomes crowded with people who visit to enjoy the beautiful cherry blossoms.

  • Bloom Period: Early to late April
  • Access: 2hr 20 min from Shinjuku (Tokyo) to Okaya Station by JR Chuo Line (limited express).

Garyuu Kouen Park, Takayama, Gifu

The symbol of the park is the natural heritage listed cherry tree that is more than 1,100 years old. “Garyuu-zakura” means crouching dragon cherry tree, and the tree is so named for the remarkable shape of its trunk, which resembles a dragon crouching on the earth.

  • Bloom Period: Late April
  • Access: 2hr to Nagoya Station from Tokyo by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line, and 2hr 10 min from Nagoya to Takayama Station.

Tonami Tulip Park, Toyama

Toyama is the proud home of the highest production volume of tulip bulbs in Japan. Tonami City is known as the “Tulip Town.” From 23rd April, the town holds a ‘Tulip Fair’ with a total of one million brilliant flowers in 450 different varieties on display. You can enjoy yourself all day long viewing Japan’s largest five linked water wheels, the tulip museum, art museum, etc.

  • Flower Fair Period: 23 April, 2009 to 6 May, 2009
  • Access: 3h 20 min from Tokyo via Echigo-Yuzawa Station (JR Joetsu Shinkansen Line) to Toyama Station by JR Hokuriku Line

Kyoto, Osaka & Surroundings

Maruyama Park, Kyoto

Located close to the Gion district, Kyoto, Maruyama Park is famous for a large overhanging cherry tree. During the bloom time, the tree is illuminated at night and creates a fantastic atmosphere.

  • Bloom Period: Late March to Mid April
  • Access: A 5-min walk from Gion district, Kyoto

Mt. Daigo-san, Kyoto

Daigo area lies to the southeast of Kyoto City. Daigo-ji Temple is the head temple of the Shingon-Daigo sect. The grounds of Daigo-ji temple cover the whole of Mt. Daigo-san, and are famous for their beautiful cherry blossoms in spring.

  • Bloom Period: Late March to Mid April
  • Access: 5 min from Kyoto to Yamashina Station by JR Biwako Line (rapid service). 8 min from Yamashina to Daigo Station.

Mt. Yoshino-yama, Nara

The most famous site in the area with over 30,000 cherry trees. It is considered to be the best cherry blossom viewing spot in Japan.

  • Bloom Period: Early to late April
  • Access: 1hr 45 min from Kyoto to Yoshino Station on the Kintetsu Line.

Osaka castle park, Osaka

The premises of the castle contain a lawn-covered park with an area of about 60,000 square metres, which is full of cherry blossom viewers in the spring time. The castle grounds boast 4300 cherry tress where you can enjoy the charming cherry blossoms with castle tower in the background.

  • Bloom Period: Early April
  • Access: 18 min from Tennoji to Osaka-jo-koen Station by JR Loop Line. About 2 hours and 30 minutes from Tokyo.

Himeji Castle, Hyogo

The Castle hosts the Himeji Castle Cherry Blossom Viewing Fair, drum music performances and Princess Sen-hime Peony Festival in spring.

  • Bloom Period: Early to Late April
  • Access: 1hr 9 min from Osaka to Himeji Station by JR Sanyo Line (new rapid service).
- Travel Associates

Visit our website for more information about holidays in Japan.

Coby Sullivan

For more information please phone 1800 017 849.