The Japan Weather Association’s 2018 cherry blossom forecast is out; you can almost hear the flurry of excitement as tourists furiously plan their sakura-specific travel diaries. If you still haven’t decided where to go to catch those ebullient blooms, hit these 9 places in Japan for some spectacular sakura experiences
When: March 23 to April 4
Where: Kawazu city holds a unique appeal as far as cherry blossoms go: the some 8,000 cherry trees in this region have blossoms that bloom for up to a month (most varieties of cherry blossom typically bloom for one to two weeks).
Tour operators like Walk Japan help travellers traverse this lovely landscape to view the unique blossoms and exploring the natural beauty of the surroundings.
When: March 24 – April 4
Where: Come spring, the scene at the Chidorigafuchi Ryokudo walkway transforms into picture-book perfection. This 700-metre stretch of lush greenery flanks the moats and waterways along the Imperial Palace. Lining these historic waterways are more than 200 cherry trees.
For an amazing view of the trees over the water, hop on a rented boat with your camera. By night the trees are illuminated, creating a tunnel of glowing flowers and branches all perched at the water’s edge.
When: March 31 to April 14
Where: When in Himeji city, many cherry blossom tours will likely take you through the famed Himeji Castle, a 1600s-built restored heritage structure that’s every bit as majestic as it is beautiful.
When the 1,000 cherry trees on the castle grounds start flowering in Spring, they create a wondrous sight to behold against the sparkling waters of the surrounding moats. It’s no wonder that cherry blossom-viewing festivals are held on this UNESCO World Heritage site every year.
When: April 6 to 14
Where: For a glimpse of undisturbed natural beauty as far as the eye can see, consider joining a tour to Mt. Yoshino, a pristine UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s blossomed faithfully since ancient times. In springtime, the mountain is aglow with different shades of pink, covered by a stunning spread of 30,000 cherry trees in approximately 200 varieties.
Even if you grow weary of snapping photos of boundless sakura blankets (is that even possible?), there’s still more to be explored in the form of nearby heritage buildings like the Yoshini Mikumari Shrine and the Kinpusenji Temple.
When: April 3 to 11
Where: Kyoto is home to many famous cherry blossom-viewing spots. Philosopher’s Path is one of them, also called Tetsugaku No Michi. This 2km-long stone path bursts with character and a decadent endowment of cherry trees flanking the water canal running parallel to the path.
It starts from the Ginkakuji Silver Pavilion and ends in Nanzenji neighbourhood – walking distance from the Keage Subway Station and nearby to sacred sites like Nonen-in Templel, the Kumano Nyakuoji Shrine and others.
When: April 8 to 16
Where: Kenrokuen Garden in the city of Kanazawa is widely considered one of the top landscaped gardens in Japan. It’s especially stunning in the spring, when its numerous plum blossoms begin to open. The flowers complement the surrounding vistas of Kanazawa Castle and two large ponds (one of which boasts a small waterfall).
As you can imagine, the grounds on Kenrokuen are pretty extensive. Prepare for some lengthy walks – you can stop for a snack in the garden’s tea houses or at the restaurants along the cherry tree-lined pedestrian path outside the gates.
When: April 3 to 11
Where: If you have a soft spot for cherry blossoms, restored castles and lush parks, you’ll find all three at Osaka Castle Park, a must-try spot to catch before spring leaves Japan. Distinct white, gold and teal hues make Osaka Castle a stunning backdrop to over 4,000 cherry trees spread out across the park.
The gentle glow of street lamps and the hum of the surrounding cityscape also add to the ambiance at this favourite cherry blossom-viewing site.
When: May 3 to 10
Where: Goryokaku Fort is Hakodate’s star when it comes to cherry blossom-viewing in this city. That’s right – it’s literally a massive star-shaped fort that’s peppered in shades of light pink when its 1,600 cherry trees blossom in the spring.
Locals and tourists flock to this historical site every year to feast their eyes on amazingly contrasting views of the blossoms, whether close-up from the ground and in panoramic angles from the observatory deck of the 107 metre-high Goryokaku Tower.
9. Kiso Valley
When: March 26 to April 16
Where: The Nakasendo trail is one to try when you’re looking to see cherry blossom season against the old-world vistas of Japan that the Kiso Valley is known for.
Laying aside glossy modern structures and fancy streets, this trail will take you through quiet rural villages and mountain passes covered with blooming cherry blossom trees – Walk Japan’s Nakasendo Way tour is a great way for first-timers to explore this scene of pastoral beauty.