The Sakura season is upon us and Japan is turning many shades of pink and purple. To help find the perfect spot for Hanami (lit. flower viewing in Japanese), we’ve picked 8 spots across the country that make for the best Sakura viewing and enjoyment.
Table of content:
Fort Goryokaku - Hakodate
Formally a defensive structure from the Edo period, Fort Goryokaku now is an open city park where Sakura trees are planted along all the fort moats, as well as on the inner part of the fort. The area is popular for Hanami parties and walking under the Sakura trees. There’s a high observatory overlooking the fort and makes for a fantastic photo opportunity. The visitor centre at Goryokaku sells a variety of local products and produce to enjoy the experience even more.
How to get there: Hakodate station can be reached using the JR Pass, and takes about 1.5 hours from Sapporo or 4 hours by Shinkansen from Tokyo. From Hakodate station take bus lines 30, 50, 59, 60A or 61 or local tram lines 2 or 5. The bus/tram is cost about 230/yen one way and is not included in the pass.
Kawazu - Izu
A popular getaway from Tokyo and located on the Izu-Peninsula, Kawaza is one of the most beautiful and pleasant Sakura viewing spots in all of Japan. Rows and rows of Sakura trees follow the local river, making it feel like a scene out of a fairy tale. Together with the characteristic old town and views of Fuji, Kawazu is simply a must-visit.
How to get there: Kawazu can be reached in about 2 hours from Tokyo by train. There are special excursion trains that depart from Tokyo station and run all the way to Shimoda, stopping at Kawazu along the way. There are many breathtaking views of the local bay and Mt. Fuji on the way and the train ride is worth making on its own.
Yoshino - Nara
The mountain range of Yoshino is one of the most spectacular Sakura sights in Japan. With over 30,000 cherry blossom trees that cover the mountainside, it simply does not get any more epic than this. Yoshino is a very popular place for Hanami picnics, so be sure to come early. The area is also great for making a variety of hikes through nature.
How to get there: Using the JR Pass, the best way is to use a local train from either Kyoto or Osaka. Here transfer to the Kintetsu line to Yoshino station (390yen / one way).
Philosophers path - Kyoto
Known locally as Tetsugaku no michi, the Philosopher's path follows small channels in Kyoto lines with cherry blossom trees. Visiting is nice all year round but during the Sakura period the Philosopher's path is at its best. Do expect it to be busy though, as it is one of the hotspots in town. Due to its easy location, the Philosopher's path can be combined with many of the other highlights located in the eastern side of Kyoto.
How to get there: Kyoto station can easily be reached by Shinkansen when travelling from other cities like Tokyo or Osaka. From Kyoto station bus number 5 and 100 take about 25 minutes, get our at Ginkakuji-mae stop.
Hikone - Gifu
Hikone (not to be confused with Hakone), is a beautiful town overlooking lake Biwa and can easily be reached by train or Shinkansen from Kyoto or Osaka. Especially noteworthy is Hikone castle and park that overlooks the surrounding area, where nearly every tree in sight is a Sakura tree. Even better is that Hikone is a relatively less known place, and you won’t find too many tourists here.
How to get there: Hikone station is easy to reach from Kyoto using the JR Tokaido-Sanyo line and most rapid and local trains make a stop there. Coming from a bit further, the best option is to take the Tokaido Shinkansen line to Maibara and then a local train to Hikone. The city itself is easy to explore on foot.
Ohori park - Fukuoka
There’s something special about Kyushu, the atmosphere is more relaxed and people seem to enjoy life more in general. Same for the cherry blossom viewing, people from around Fukuoka gather in Ohori park to enjoy themselves, and it’s easy to join in. The park is built on the old castle grounds and has a massive amount of Sakura viewing opportunity. While not as photogenic as other Sakura spots, there’s a high level of pure enjoyment in the air, that simply can’t be missed.
How to get there: To get to Fukuoka use the Shinkansen and get out at Hakata station, the Shinkansen station for Fukuoka. From there, use the Fukuoka Metro to Ohori-koen stop.
Chureito Pagoda - Fuji-Yoshida
The Chureito Pagoda is the most iconic sight in all of Japan, which offers a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji, plenty of Sakura and don’t forget the Pagado itself. For those looking to get the best Instagram shot this is a must-visit. Due to its location, the Chureito Pagoda is great to combine with other beautiful sights around Fuji, like lake Kawaguchi-ko and Fuji Five lakes.
How to get there: The easiest way is to use the train from Shinjuku station, Tokyo bound for Kawaguchi-ko (sometimes a transfer at Otsuki station may be required), then get out at Shimo-Yoshida Station, from here it is 10 min on foot to Chureito Pagoda.
Ueno Park - Tokyo
Visiting Ueno park during the Sakura period is a classic, and a very popular spot for anyone in Tokyo to visit for hanami parties. There is plenty of celebration going on, with lots of street food and performances to enjoy. Come early if you plan on doing a picnic yourself, else all available spots may be taken. Of course Hanami parties are something to be enjoyed together and don’t be surprised when locals invite you to share in a meal or drink.
How to get there: Ueno park is right outside Ueno station, which is a big JR Hub and easy to reach from most places around Tokyo. Just follow the signs Ueno park exit and your good to go.
That’s all our recommended Sakura spots, of course there are many more places to view and enjoy the cherry blossom in Japan. The beauty of the Japan Rail Pass is that you’re hardly limited by geography, as you can go nearly anywhere. Our last recommendation for enjoying the Sakura to its best is checking the weather and blooming forecast beforehand. This way its easy to find where the Sakura is in full bloom and plan accordingly. For instance, if you’re based in Tokyo but its still early there for blossom to come out, then you could hop on a Shinkansen to Nagoya or Kyoto where Sakura generally starts a week or so earlier.