It may not feel like it but spring is just around the corner. After the celebrations of the Chinese New Year, it is now time to look forward. Spring usually brings to mind a newness, of beginning again after a long winter. You may think of flowers, baby animals and Easter bunnies. To really embrace spring, there is nothing we recommend more than taking a trip to see sakura, or cherry blossoms in Japan. Here is our guide to the perfect places to see cherry blossom in Japan and what to do whilst you are there.
The Cherry Blossom Forecast
According to WeatherMap and the Japan Meteorological Association, the cherry blossom season may come early this year. The season, called Hanami, typically begins in Okinawa, the southernmost region of Japan and finishes in Hokkaido in the north. The season usually begins in February and ends in May, with various festivals taking place between that time. Of course, this can change rapidly, depending on the temperature, rainfall and the wind so if you plan to visit Japan during this time, keep an eye on the forecasts.
Cherry Blossoms in the Tokyo and Fuji Area
Let’s imagine that you decide to begin your trip in Tokyo. The best place to see cherry blossoms in this area is around the Fuji Five Lakes area, where the spread of pink stretches as far as the eye can see. The Fuji zone is well known amongst tourists and it is quite usual for many Tokyo trippers to take a day out from the city to visit Japan’s most mythical mountain. Although actually climbing the mountain itself can be difficult in spring due to unpredictable weather, the Fuji zone is one of the most famous sakura viewing points.
The blossoms begin to bloom around April, with mid-April being the prime time to visit and see the flowers at their peak. In fact, the cherry trees bloom later than in Tokyo, which might prove handy if you decide to visit Tokyo first. As their season is ending, Fuji-san’s is just beginning.
Once arriving at Fuji Five Lakes, one of the best places to see the sakura is Chureito Pagoda. This temple is actually a peace memorial and it stands in the shadow of Fuji, looking out over orchards of cherry blossom. The view is spectacular, not only for the blooms but for unparalleled sights of Fuji.
Other top recommendations are Kawaguchiko lake, from both northern and eastern shores, as well as Iyashi no Sato. The latter is an extremely quaint craft village, with thatched roof houses so reminiscent of Japanese towns in days gone by. It is worth visiting for the museum alone, but it is also a great vantage point to see sakura.
If you are staying in Tokyo, it is well worth visiting Ueno Park and Zoo to see cherry blossoms in full bloom. The zoo is a great place to take children and walking under canopies of blossoms can be a magical experience.
Nara and Yoshinoyama
Nara is famous for it’s deer park but Mount Yoshino regularly appears in lists of the best places to see sakura. The mountains themselves have been extremely popular in terms of cherry blossom viewing, as over 30,000 trees are planted on the slopes. Don’t be put off by having to climb the mountains to see the blossoms! Whilst it is quite a hike, there are plenty of sights along the way. For example, the shrine of Yoshimizu-jinja which is one of the most famous viewpoints over the cherry blossom valley.
Kyoto and Osaka
Kyoto is a fantastic city in which to indulge in the Japan of both old and new. It is entirely possible to see cherry blossoms all over the city. However, the best place to see cherry blossom is widely contested but The Philosopher´s Walk is the perfect place to start. The winding path alongside a small river, which leads through some beautiful scenery and ends at a temple is worth a trip to Kyoto alone. The Imperial Palace houses an enormous park, where it is also possible to see blossoms and enjoy the regal splendor of Kyoto’s past.
In Osaka, the Osaka Mint is regarded as one of the best sites to see cherry blossom, more for it’s variety than beauty. There are many different types of tree, some with double blossoms, which can have up to one hundred petals per flower. This makes for some excellent photo opportunities and the orchard is truly beautiful. The park is quite popular with tourists so expect for it to be busy. However, it is well worth it to see this symbol of Japanese culture.
Have you visited Japan during cherry blossom season? What recommendations do you have? Comment below!