The unofficial national flower of Japan, cherry blossoms play an important role in the country’s culture. Every spring, sakura (cherry blossom season) sees the blooms erupt with colour, with hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties in full swing.
Tokyo: There are a number of parks in the Japanese capital popular for their cherry blossoms. Not far from Shinjuku Station, Shinjuku Goen features more than 1000 cherry trees in dozens of varieties – it’s a great place for picnics and people watching on weekends. One of the country’s most popular parks, Ueno also features thousands of trees, lining a long street leading to the National Museum. Small stalls sell themed delicacies, including cherry blossom flavoured soft serve.
Kyoto: Next to Yasaka Shrine, Maruyama Park is the city’s most popular place for cherry blossom parties – at its heart is a large, weeping cherry tree that is lit up in the evenings. There are dozens of food stalls to pick up snacks for your picnic. Hundreds of cherry trees also line Philosopher’s Path, a canal-side path that leads to Kyoto’s Silver Pavilion.
Fuji Five Lakes: People flock to the lakes around Mount Fuji during hanami, hoping to glimpse the mountain framed by pink blooms. Head to the north shore of Lake Kawaguchiko for great photo opportunities – your likelihood of having clear skies improves the earlier in the day you visit. In the hills of Fujiyoshida, Chureuto Pagoda is surrounded by cherry blossom trees, so much so that it appears the temple is floating in a cloud of pink, with Mount Fuji as the backdrop of course.
Hokkaido: Trees bloom later in the year in northern Japan, so if you miss the cherry blossoms on the main island, you’ll still have a chance to glimpse them in Hokkaido. Maruyama Park and Hokkaido Shrine, located next to each other, are popular places for hanami parties, with plenty of open space to lay picnic mats under the beautiful trees. Several thousand trees are planted around Matsumae Castle, with a wide range of tree varieties meaning a spectacular patchwork of colours.
Osaka: The grounds of Osaka Castle are planted with more than 4000 cherry trees, making it the place to visit during the spring months – linger into the evening, as the castle is lit up at night. And some 5000 trees line the Okawa River for several kilometres; wander along the waterside promenade, or take in the explosion of pink from the comfort of a boat cruising the river.
Yokohama: Mitsuike Park is regularly voted one of the best places in Japan during cherry blossom season. More than a thousand trees line the banks of a lake, which is a pleasant place to stroll around after a picnic lunch in the park. Sankeien Garden also has a central lake ringed by landscaped gardens home to hundreds of cherry trees as well as a number of historic temples.