Where to see Japan's cherry blossom - minus the crowds
Cherry blossom is perhaps the ideal time to visit Japan, it’s flowering buds transforming an already beautiful country into a spring-time wonderland. Without booking flights last minute, however, it’s difficult to time your trip to coincide with sakura (cherry blossom season) as, depending on a number of factors including annual temperatures, the sakura trees can bloom anytime late February until early May. What’s more, the sakura can be short with manaki (full bloom) often lasting only a week.
If you get your timing right, you’ll want to get your location right too. While cherry blossom viewing is possible on all four of Japan’s main islands (Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu), and indeed in the big cities such as Tokyo and Kyoto, we recommend you head somewhere more remote - to really enjoy this fleeting experience at it’s best.
Here are seven places to see the Japanese cherry blossom season, minus the crowds:
Mount Shiude – Mitoyo, Kagawa
Standing tall, the viewing platform atop 352 meters tall Mount Shiude boasts views over the Shonai peninsula, including the Seto Inland Sea islands. If you miss the cherry blossom in spring, Mount Shiude is the place to head, as you may instead catch the blooming of the hydragneas in early summer.
Matsushima Bay, Miyagi
Talk about impressive. Matsushima Bay is a cluster of small islands just off the coast of Dendai, Miyagi’s capital. These 260 small islands come into cherry-blossom bloom in spring, covering the dotted lands with many an opportunity to really take some time to yourself, and enjoy nature at its impressive best.
Himeji Castle, Hyogo
Kyoto is full of life but outside of the cities, head to Himeji Castle in the Hyogo prefecture, west of Kyoto, for some impressive sights - and equally impressive photo opportunities. Lake Kawaguchiko’s north shores have views of Mount Fuji - beautiful any time of year but particularly impressive during Sakura season. While here, take a trip to Mount Yoshino in Nara—this UNESCO World Heritage site is often considered the ultimate cherry blossom viewing destination in Japan.
Hitome Senbonzakura, Miyagi
Easily accessible, Hitome Senbonzakura is just 30 minutes by train from Sendai Station. Hitome Senbonzakura means 1,000 Sakura trees at a glance- but this is somewhat misleading, as it is in fact estimated to be home to around 1200 trees. Standing tall on the Shiroishi Riverside in Ogawara Town, here, the pink bloom is complemented by a snow-covered Mount Zao.
Fukuyama Castle, Hiroshima
The majestic Fukuyama Castle is a spectacular backdrop to the already beautiful cherry blossoms; this view is so intrinsically Japanese that you may feel you’re on a film set. Elsewhere in Hiroshima, head to Senkoji Park in Onomichi City to witness the cherry blossom - the park’s elevation offers impressive views over Seto Inland Sea.
See more photos of cherry blossom in Japan:
Handayama Botanical Garden, Okayama
Handayama Botanical Garden is home to around 45 species of cherry blossom trees which, when in bloom, cover the entire mountain in a beautiful layer of pink. In season, Cherry Blossom Festivals are held allowing for some spectacular night viewing.
Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu
Cherry blossom viewing at Ritsurin Garden is unique; you can stroll the grounds, or choose to take a boat ride on the lake. We recommend the latter. The gardens also host a Spring Illumination festival every year from the end of March to start of April.