Few can resist the beauty of sakura (Japanese cherry blossoms). During hanami (sakura-viewing outings), those lucky enough to reside in Japan can collect quite a bunch of memorable experiences. A child catching the very first yamazakura cherry petal in their palm; lovers kissing under the somei yoshino tree; a romanticist embracing nostalgia under the fugenzou (a sakura bloom with a tinge of red) — these are amongst the country’s yearly occurrences.  

No matter if you are new to hanami or a total veteran devotee, there are some exotic spots we do not want you to miss this year. Here are some editor tips:

Japan’s Exceptional 10

Chikuma River Sakurazutsumi

Sakurazutsumi is a 4km cherry blossom dike stretching along the Chikuma River.  This sakura forest, which homes approximately 600 ichiyo (double-cherry trees), is the perfect place for a deep dive into the hanami experience.

Bloom: end of April – middle of May.
Location: 381-0205, Obusemachi, Kamitakai District, Nagano Prefecture.
Access: A 25-min walk from Obuse Station on the Nagano Electric Railway (Nagano Line).
Admission: free and all day

Satte Gongendo Park Sakura Hanami Spring Japan

Photos correspond with text below

Satte Gongendo Park

A 1km tunnel of 1,000 majestic yoshino cherry trees combined with a vast field of canola flowers. Don’t you feel like galloping around that yellow sea, just reading about it? The promenade leads all the way to Lake Miyuki, where you can sit by the water and enjoy being one with nature.

Bloom: end of March – beginning of April
Location: 349-1105, 50 Koemon, Kuki, Saitama Prefecture
Access: 30 minutes walk from Satte Station (Tobu Nikko Line)
Admission: free and all day

Oshino Hakkai Sakura Hanami Spring Japan

Oshino Hakkai

There are plenty “Mt. Fuji hanami” recommended view sites in every tourist guide. Here however, the river that runs from the village towards the mountain offers a distinctively scenic location when combined with cherry blossoms. Stroll alongside 200 yoshino trees, enjoying the view of crystal snow topping the magnificent Mt.Fuji. A petite bridge of the Shinagawa Shrine completes the perfection.

Bloom: mid-April – end of March
Location: Oshino Hakkai Village, Yamanashi Prefecture
Access: get off at the Oshino Hakkai bus stop
Admission: free and all day

Takato Castle Park Sakura Hanami Spring Japan

Takato Castle Park

This park, surrounding the 700-year-old Takato Castle with approximately 1500 trees, opens up to a fantastic view of the Japanese Alps. The Castle Park cherry blossoms have distinctive red-tinted small petals that are considered the best in the whole country.

Bloom: beginning of April – mid-April
Location: 396-0213, Takatomachi Higashi Takato, Ina City, Nagano Prefecture
Access: during the cherry blossom season, a JR bus runs every 1-4 hours from Chino Station to Takato Bus Station (50 min, 1390 yen one-way), from where it is a 15 minute walk to the park
Admission: ¥500 for adults; ¥250 for children (only during the festival) and open at all times

Hanamiya Park Sakura Hanami Spring Japan

Hanamiyama Park

A truly unique hanami experience; created by local farmers who planted flower trees and ornamental plants on the hillsides around their land, Hanamiyama Park offers laid out trails surrounded by flowers which lead to cherry blossom-covered slopes on the south. The longer trails lead up to a viewpoint at the top, from where you can look over Fukushima and the Azuma Mountains.

Bloom: beginning – mid-April
Location: 960-8141, Watari, Fukushima, Fukushima Prefecture
Access: take a seasonal bus (round trip adult ¥500/child 250 yen); get off at Hanamiyama Park Seasonal Bus Stop, or take a regular bus (¥240) at East Exit Bus Stop No.8 and get off at Tate or Hanamiyama Iriguchi
Admission: free and all day

Shirashi River Sakura Hanami Spring Japan

Shiraishi River, Miyagi

A place for those drawn to waterfalls and those who enjoy viewing cherry blossoms in great abundance. The walk promises approximately 1,200 trees stretching along an 8km river path with the snow-capped Zao Mountain range in the background.

Blooms: beginning – mid-April
Location: Horyo-mae, Oya, Ogawa, Shibata, Miyagi
Access: JR Ogawara Station
Admission: free and all day

Funaoka Joshi Park Sakura Hanami Spring Japan

Funaoka Joshi Park

Another great Miyagi spot, but this time with an adorable monorail that runs through a whole tunnel of cherry blossoms. Funaoka Peace Kannon is situated at the top of the mountain, where you can enjoy captivating scenery. The location is also famous for “Shibata Cherry Blossoms Festival” at the beginning of April.

Bloom: beginning – mid April
Location: 989-1606, 95-1, Oaza-Funaoka Tateyama, Shibata Town, Shibata Province, Miyage Prefecture
Access: Approximately 15 min from JR Funaoka Station
Admission: admission free; monorail hours 9am – 7pm

Nakatsunako Lake Sakura Hanami Spring Japan

Nakatsunako Lake

A fabulous view with pure waters and few people, certainly worthy of your attention. Whatever it is you want to do – reading, picnicking, or painting – the spot offers you its quiet shelter.

Bloom: end of April – beginning of May
Location: Lake Nakatsunako, Ohmachi City, Nagano Prefecture
Access: 5 min walk from Yanaba Station (JR Oito Line)
Admission: free and all day

Takenaka Inari Shrine Sakura Hanami Spring Japan

Takenaka Inari Shrine, Kyoto

The combination of red torii gates and cherry blossoms makes the shrine look like a dreamy candyland. Dress up in a yukata (non-formal version of traditional kimono) and walk around the shrine with friends, snapping photos of flowers in your hair and all around. Although lesser known than Kyoto’s Kiomizudera and Fushimi Inari, Takenaka Shrine is not inferior in beauty, especially during the hanami season.

Bloom: end of March – beginning of April
Location: 606-8311, Yoshidakaguraokacho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
Access: 25min walk from Demachiyanagi Station or 20 min ride on a number 17 or 203 bus from the same station
Admission: 9am – 5pm; free

Osaka Mint Bureau Sakura Hanami Spring Japan

Osaka Mint Bureau

Apart from being the government agency responsible for producing coins and medals, Mint Bureau is also a home to over 100 cherry varieties, including late-blooming yae-zakura trees (pink with more than 5 petals per blossom).

Bloom: mid-April
Location: Osaka Mint Bureau
Access: 10 min walk from Temmabashi Station
Admission: free; usually open from 9am – 4pm last entry; hanami season special hours – 10am – 9pm; from 9am on the weekend

 

If you are in Tokyo and not planning to leave its horizons, here are some esoteric spots we suggest:

Tokyo and Vicinities Special 5

Shakuji River bridge Sakura Hanami Spring JapanShakuji River

The most dreamy sakura spot in Tokyo. Not crowded during sakura season, Shakuji River is a place where you can enjoy peace and quiet under a shawl of interlacing sakura branches, under which cute little bridges are in abundance. Grassy lawns along the river make it a wonderful spot for picnics and precious times with family.

Bloom: end of March – beginning of April
Location: Itahashi-ku; stretches from JR Oji Station until the motorway near Itabashi Honcho
Admission: free and all day

 Chidorigafuchi Park Sakura Hanami Spring JapanChidorigafuchi Park

Imagine sakura petals falling on your cheek as you take a nap on a boat, sliding through cherry blossom covered waters. Combine this experience with a walk around the Imperial Palace and a visit to the East Gardens.

Bloom: end of March – beginning of April
Location: 102-0091, 1-1 Kitanomarukoen, Chiyoda
Access: 5-min walk from Kudanshita Station or Hanzomon Station
Admission: free, illumination until 8pm

Otonashi Water Park Sakura Hanami Japan SpringOtonashi Water Park

Cherry blossoms here were planted in the early 18th century. The place resembles a more developed Tolkien hobbit village — with a small stream that runs under a wooden bridge and a tiny watermill. Not so famous among tourists, this is a great place to hide from the crowds.

Blooming days: end of March – beginning of April
Location: 114-00221, Chome Ojikoncho, Kita, Tokyo
Access: 2-min walk from Oji Station
Admission: free and all day admission

Aoyama Cemetery Sakura Hanami Japan SpringAoyama Cemetery

One of Japan’s oldest public cemeteries. No festivals, picnics or food stalls are allowed in here, which makes it a very serene location. The mixture of moth-covered stone graves and cherry blossoms transforms it into a sacred, enchanting space.

Bloom: late March – early April
Location: 107-0062, Minamiaoyama 2-32-1
Access: 10-min walk from Nogizaka Station
Admission: free and open all day

Shingashi River Sakura Hanami Spring Japan
Shingashi River

More than 500 beautiful cherry blossoms grow next to the Hikawa Shrine, famous for being an admired spot for the god of marriage. Wooden decks and freshly grown grass at the riverbanks radiate a very warm, welcoming atmosphere. At the opening of the “Koedo Kawagoe Spring Festival” a boat-crossing event is held at the river, during which you can enjoy a short cruise on a traditional Japanese boat.

Bloom: late March – early April
Location: 350-0052, Miyashitamachi 2-11-3, Kawagoe-shi, Saitama
Access: 20-min walk from Hon-Kawagoe Station (Seibu Line)
Admission: free and all day