For what seems like a fleeting instance, sakura (as they’re known in Japan) exist in exquisitely delicate shades of white and pink. The soft colors signal promising times ahead. For travelers hoping to view this annual miracle for themselves, here is our guide to some of the best places in Japan to see sakura.Observing the annual cherry blossom is all about timing. Climatic conditions heavily influence when blooms occur. Cold and harsh winters delay the flowering. There is also geographic variation. On Okinawa, with its subtropical climate, blooms can occur as early as January. Whereas northern Hokkaido Island can see blooms at late as the first week in May. For Tokyo and the neighboring prefectures, the cherry blossom commonly peaks around the first week in April. Japanese weather services track the bloom and provide detailed forecast models. Travelers should check these when booking travel dates.
In considering where to go, it is useful to consider what you hope to see. The following are several areas around Japan with highly-regarded cherry blossom viewing opportunities.
It’s no surprise Japan’s capital would feature excellent cherry blossoms. The city’s many parks and curated gardens have honed their cultivation skills for centuries. Ueno Park is one of the city’s top viewing spots. It has an impressive cherry tree assortment. As an added bonus, many great cultural institutions are located there, making it easy to visit a museum or two in between cherry blossom viewing.
Similarly, the Meguro River is a stunning visual feast. The banks are lined with cherry trees that create a flowing carpet of flowers as the soft petals fall to the river below. Lit paths make this an especially good place to come after dark. It’s hard to imagine a more romantic moment than a walk among the cherry blossom on a warm spring evening.
Japan’s cultural capital is likewise replete with splendid cherry blossoms. In particular, the paths around kyoto/arashiyama-86685/">Arashiyama appear conjured from a graphic novel. The bamboo forest interspersed with cherry trees is magical at any time of year. During peak bloom it is positively other-worldly. Kyoto’s slower pace and more relaxed atmosphere add to the experience.
The aptly named kyoto/philosopher-s-walk-10558880/">Philosopher's Walk is one of the city’s other springtime treasures. Set astride a canal beginning near the Ginkakuji Temple and running approximately two kilometers, the kyoto/philosopher-s-walk-10558880/">Philosopher's Walk literally explodes with color. It is arguably Kyoto’s most popular spot for hanami, the Japanese tradition of cherry blossom viewing.
Fuji Five Lakes
If cherry blossoms are a symbol of Japan, so too is Mount Fuji. Combining the two make for an unforgettable portrait. In the Lake Kawaguchi area, the blossom occurs within sight of the famous mountain. With its snowcapped volcanic cone in the background, you will have some fantastic pictures to send home.
For those whose travel schedules do not permit visiting Japan in April, Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, saves its bloom for early May. Pay a visit to Hokkaido Shrine where you can see this region come alive as the arrival of spring finally reaches Japan’s northern prefectures.
Another great destination on Japan’s northern Hokkaido Island lies just across Tsugaru Straights from Honshu. Hakodate is home to the lovely Goryokaku Park, an old defensive fort built in a 5-pointed star pattern. Wandering the many paths around this star park will leave you with a twinkle in your eye. Each corner comes to life with blossoms. Meandering along the fort’s old stone walls, you might well imagine yourself transported to some far distant past and away from the worries of modern life.
No matter where you choose to go, be sure to observe the blossom forecast. This will help ensure you can find the optimal time to see the magnificent bloom is all its glory. Enjoy too the sights and the many people milling about, admiring the bloom, relaxing under the trees, and imbibing the spirit of hanami. This thoroughly Japanese practice relaxes and body and comforts the soul. It is truly a marvelous time.
(photo by @ui_hii618love @puraten10 @t.hagi_1013 @capkaieda @kuuto1469)