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Best places to see cherry blossoms in Japan during Sakura season

There’s nothing quite like sakura season in Japan. Walk through a gorgeous blossom tunnel in Tokyo, enjoy a picnic in the grounds of stunning Himeji Castle or snap superlative sakura-framed photos of majestic Mount Fuji. If you’re dreaming of a hanami holiday, read on for our guide to the best places to see cherry blossoms in Japan during sakura season.

When is the best time to go to Japan to see cherry blossom 2020

Sakura cherry blossom japan prediction 2019

Sakura season in Japan moves slowly northwards from Okinawa in the south of Japan to Hokkaido in the chilly north and varies by year according to the weather conditions. Generally speaking, the safest time to plan a visit to see the cherry blossom at its best is in early April. However, if you can’t make it then, head north or to higher elevations and you should still be in for some spectacular viewing.

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Where are the best places to see cherry blossom Japan 2020 during the sakura season

1. Mount Yoshino, Nara Prefecture

For the true sakura afficianado with a hankering for fresh mountain air, a trip to Mount Yoshino is a worthy pilgrimage. Covered in over 30,000 cherry trees, Mount Yoshino has been Japan’s most popular cherry blossom viewing spot for centuries, so join the crowds and amble around the cherry tree-covered slopes, explore ancient mountain temples or pack a picnic and head to Naka Senbon Park for a hanami under the blossoms. If it’s views you want, hike for an hour up to Hanayagura View Point and prepared to be awed. Best of all, because of the elevation, sakura season here often stretches until early May!

When to go: April to early May
How to get there: Trains from Osaka Abenobashi Station to Yoshino take 90 minutes (RM36 / JPY 970). From Yoshino Station there are regular shuttle buses running to Naka Senbon Park (RM14 / JPY 360)

2. Himeji Castle, Himeji

Stunning Himeji Castle is surely Japan’s most spectacular castle and after a recent renovation, it is looking better than ever with its striking white wooden walls contrasting beautifully with the cherry blossom during sakura season. The castle is surrounded by 1000 cherry trees which burst into life promising a stunning spot for a hanami picnic or a boat trip around the moat.

When to go: Early April
How to get there: Hop on a train for the 60-minute ride from Osaka (RM56 / JPY1,490) to Himeji Station from where it’s a 15-minute walk to the castle.

3. Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokyo

Undoubtedly one of Japan’s most beautiful gardens, Shinjuku Gyoen features French, English and Japanese-style gardens and contains more than 1300 cherry trees making this one of the best places in the capital to view sakura. This is a great spot for people watching and as alcohol is forbidden here, it’s perfect for letting the kids run wild in the open spaces. Many of the trees here are late blossoming varieties, so if you arrive after peak season elsewhere in Japan, this is a good bet for seeing sakura.

When to go: Early April
How to go there: 10-minute walk from Shinjuku Station 

4. Mount Fuji, Shizuoka Prefecture

The Fuji Five Lakes region offers spectacular scenery in a number of places, so to get the most out of your Fuji experience you’ll need to start the day off early and be prepared for a bit of travelling. A good spot for early morning photos of Fuji with sakura in the foreground is at Chureito Pagoda. Another great place for stunning mountain views is the northern shore of Kawaguchiko, with the blossoms and lake making a stunning accompaniment to the majestic backdrop of Fuji.

When to go: Mid to late April
How to get there: Take a bus from Shinjuku Bus Terminal to Kawaguchiko Station (2 hours; RM66 / JPY 1,750)

5. The Philosopher’s Path, Kyoto

A walk along the Philosopher’s Path, following the cherry tree-lined canal from temple to café to boutique under the shade of the blooming sakura is a real springtime treat. The path gets its name from the philosopher Nishida Kataro, who used to meditate as he walked along this path on his daily commute to Kyoto University. Take a detour off the path and pop into notable attractions including the Nanzenji Temple and the cherry blossom hotspot of the Keage Incline before enjoying the eye-popping anime on display at the Manga Museum.

When to go: Early April
How to get there: Hop on the train from Osaka Station to Kyoto Station (29 mins; RM21/JPY560) and then take bus 5 from Kyoto Station (25 mins; RM8 / JPY 220)

6. Hirosaki Castle, Hirosaki

Take a trip up to the north of Honshu to see the sakura at Hirosaki Castle, considered one of the best places to see cherry blossoms in Japan. As it’s in the north, the trees blossom late here, so if you’ve missed peak season, head up here and explore the gorgeous park around the castle with its 2500 cherry trees, blossom tunnels and be sure to take a soothing boat ride on the blossom covered moat. After dark, come and check out the illuminations for a magical hanami experience during the sakura festival, held annually from April 23rd to May 5th.

When to go: End of April to early May
How to get there: Take the train from Aomori to Hirosaki Station (30 mins) and then hop on the Dotemachi Loop Bus to get to the castle.

7. Ueno Park, Tokyo

For a gorgeous nocturnal hanami experience head to Ueno Park after dark to see the trees lit up by over 1000 paper lanterns. No matter that time you come, be prepared for crowds and a lively atmosphere as this place attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each sakura season who come to take a walk, browse goodies at the antique market and enjoy the beautiful blossom. Cherry trees at Ueno Park usually blossom a few days earlier than at other spots in Tokyo so if you get into town a bit early, make a beeline here.

When to go: Early April
How to get there: Walk from Ueno Station

8. Takayama City, Takayama

If you are looking to see rural and traditional Japan on your hanami expedition, be sure to make the trip to the old city of Takayama to enjoy the city’s famous Takayama Festival (April 14th and 15th) and to explore its beautifully preserved old town, morning markets and traditional villages. Good places to see sakura here include the iconic Nakabashi Bridge and the cherry tree-lined Enakogawa River.

When to go: Mid to late April
How to get there: Take a train from Osaka to Takayama (3.5 hours, RM366 / JPY 9,800) and then explore on foot.


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