11 Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan
A welcome sign of spring and a deeply cherished part of Japanese culture, the custom of viewing cherry blossoms (known as hanami, or “flower viewing,” in Japanese) is synonymous with lazy family picnics under blossoming trees, strolling along tree-lined pathways while contemplating new beginnings, and celebrating after dark under the ethereal glow of yozakura (cherry blossoms lit up at night).
Wherever you are in Japan, you’ll likely find hanami opportunities nearby. But if you’re really keen to experience this part of Japanese culture, here are some notably special spots to see Japan's beautiful cherry blossoms.
Springtime in Tokyo’s hip Nakameguro district sees the more than 800 trees that line the canal-like Meguro River burst into shades of pink and white. The blossoming trees are celebrated with the Nakameguro Sakura Festival, during which the trees are lit up in the evening, adding a new dimension to blossom-viewing. Dive into the area’s hanami culture and history, under the illuminated trees, on an evening walking tour.
In the heart of the Shinjuku district, the sprawling Shinjuku Gyoen offers a respite from the surrounding bustle and high-rise buildings. Home to more than a thousand cherry trees, including both early and late bloomers, the park has plenty of lawn space to sprawl out on and enjoy nature’s show. If you’re short on time, a bus tour can take you to several top Tokyo hanami-viewing spots in one afternoon.
Brimming with Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, Japan’s cultural capital is a particularly serene spot for cherry blossom–viewing (if you can ignore the rather large crowds). The stone Philosopher's Path is named for a philosopher who practiced meditation while walking there and follows a canal lined by hundreds of cherry trees. There are lots of top blossom spots in Kyoto so maximize your time by booking a bicycle or rickshaw tour to whisk you between locations.
Mt. Yoshino (part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range) has long been a favored hanami spot. The first cherry trees are believed to have been planted on its slopes over 1,300 years ago and today it boasts more than 30,000 cherry trees, of many types and colors. A guided tour can introduce you to the many shrines and temples on the path up the mountain.
Fuji Five Lakes
Nestled in the hills of Fujiyoshida City, around 66 miles (108 kilometers) west of Tokyo, the 5-story Chureito Pagoda offers excellent Mt. Fuji views, making it a top photography spot year-round. (And a private guided tour from Tokyo can help you find the most photogenic angles.) Cherry blossom season paints a particularly beautiful scene here as the pagoda appears to float above the pink blossoms separating it and Fuji.
Perched on a hilltop in the Hyōgo Prefecture in the Kansai region, UNESCO-listed Himeji Castle is famed for its white facade (which is supposed to resemble a bird taking flight); its views of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi; and the surrounding cherry trees. Explore the grounds, gardens, and interiors on a private guided tour or take a glide along the canal under the trees’ flowering branches on a boat tour.
In Aomari prefecture, in the Tōhoku region on the northernmost part of Japan’s main island, Honshu, the 400-year-old Hirosaki Castle is surrounded by a park that’s filled with 2,500 sakura trees. The mesmerizing scene is completed by moats, colorful bridges, and the snow-capped Mt. Iwaki in the background. Admire the scene on a private guided tour or rent a boat and paddle along the fallen petal–covered moat.
On the eastern side of the Izu Peninsula, the Kawazu cherry trees are some of Japan’s earliest bloomers—they start opening in early February and are typically in full bloom as early as late February. Welcome the early arrival of spring on the peninsula by combining cherry blossom–viewing with fruit picking on a guided tour from Tokyo.
The small island of Megijima, in the Seto Inland Sea, offers a quieter alternative to the most popular hanami spots. The island has a laid-back beachy ambiance and is steeped in folklore—it’s also associated with the “demon’s island” of the Japanese tale Momotarō. Close to the so-called “ogre’s cave,” a mountaintop park offers excellent views of the sea and the surrounding islands, while in spring hundreds of cherry trees bloom. Visit Megijima on a day trip from Takamatsu and rent a bicycle at the port to get around.
On the northern island of Hokkaido, Matsumae Castle is surrounded by thousands of cherry trees in more than 200 varieties, which means that peak bloom is staggered and hanami season lasts almost a whole month. The Matsumae Cherry Blossom Festival has various events such as armored samurai warrior parades, a Matsumae local products fair, and celebration of the birth of Buddha. Explore the castle and surrounding hot springs on a guided tour.
On Kyushu, the sunniest and southernmost of Japan’s four major islands, Miyazaki’s Mochio Park is home to around 2,600 cherry trees, which burst into color around mid-March. Take a rickshaw ride through the park, enjoy the festivities of the Mochio Park Cherry Blossom Festival, and join the locals sprawled out and picnicking beneath the trees. Afterward, follow the park’s hiking trails to the cascading Sekinoo Falls.