Prepare the picnic rugs – it’s sakura season!
Each spring, picnic lovers in Japan head to their favorite cherry blossom spots to engage in hanami (flower viewing) and celebrate the ephemeral beauty of a new season.
The 2023 season will welcome foreign tourists to join the celebrations for the first time since 2019. Reservation portal Rakuten Travel curated a list of the country’s top cherry blossom viewing destinations, from which we’ve picked a few of our favorites.
Hirosaki Park, Aomori Prefecture
From late April, the expansive grounds of Hirosaki Castle are carpeted in the pink and white blossoms of around 2,600 sakura trees. To mark the occasion, the city of Hirosaki holds an annual festival, during which the blossoms are illuminated for a magical nighttime hanami experience.
The world’s longest sakura road, Aomori Prefecture
It turns out that Hirosaki is also a prime destination for magnificent countryside driving: Stretching from the city’s west is a 20-kilometer road lined with around 6,500 cherry blossom trees, forming a dark pink tunnel along the south side of the imposing Mt. Iwaki.
Miharu Takizakura, Fukushima Prefecture
The aptly-named waterfall sakura in the town of Miharu is over one thousand years old. This impressive weeping cherry is around 25 meters across, and serves as the centerpiece of the town’s approximately 2,000 sakura trees.
Meguro River, Tokyo
One of the most popular hanami spots in Tokyo, the cherry blossoms overhanging Meguro River attract some three million visitors each year from mid-March. The 4-kilometer stretch offers visitors a wide range of trendy shops and restaurants – provided you can get in the door.
Satte Gongendo Cherry Embankment, Saitama Prefecture
If you find yourself yearning for wide open spaces, Tokyo’s northern neighbor of Saitama might just be the ticket. From late March, fields of bright yellow rapeseed flowers provide a stunning contrast against the cherry blossoms that line the Gongendo embankment in Satte.
Takada Castle, Niigata Prefecture
The moat of Takada Castle in the city of Joetsu reflects some 4,000 sakura trees, which typically bloom from early to mid-April. During the evenings, the castle grounds are illuminated by the ethereal light of 3,000 paper lanterns.
Arakurayama Sengen Park, Yamanashi Prefecture
There are few views more iconic than this one. Sakura seekers can climb 398 steps for an all-in-one view of the Arakurayama Sengen shrine’s five-storied pagoda; the majestic Mt. Fuji; and the town of Fujiyoshida below – and, from early April, 650 blooming Yoshino cherries.
Mt. Yoshino, Nara Prefecture
A pink forest awaits those who find themselves in Mt. Yoshino, home to around 30,000 cherry blossom trees. From the beginning of April, the trees start blossoming at lower elevations, slowly making their way higher and higher up the hills over the following weeks.
Himeji Castle, Hyogo Prefecture
A popular destination year-round, the UNESCO World Heritage listed Himeji Castle is particularly magical during April, when it is blanketed in blossoms of around 1,000 sakura trees of various kinds. The grounds of this iconic Japanese landmark are illuminated during the annual Himeji Castle Cherry Blossom Festival.
Miyajima, Hiroshima Prefecture
The island of Miyajima, located in Hiroshima Bay, is yet another UNESCO World Heritage site that enjoys a fleeting sakura spectacle each April. Itsukushima Shrine’s famous ‘floating’ torii gate is a sight to behold from beneath the pink canopy of the island’s cherry blossom trees.
Photos from Rakuten Travel’s Hanami Spot Ranking