In today’s Japan Travel Q&A we answer a question about the cherry blossoms from Jesse in San Diego, California:
“Which regions of Japan are the best for cherry blossoms, and which dates?”
Don’t feel like watching a video? Read below for today’s answer!
Great question, Jesse!
The hanami (cherry blossom viewing) season is maybe the most magical time of year in Japan.
Beginning with the first inklings of bloom, and not stopping until the blossoms have completely fallen, hanami season is full of picnics, sake, celebrations, cold nights under the moon, and memories.
Parks large and small fill to the brim with revelers armed with tarps, blankets, bento, beer and sake.
The hanami season begins as early as late January in subtropical Okinawa, and as late as May in the northern island of Hokkaido.
But for most of Japan, peak cherry blossom season takes place in March and April.
Hanami takes place throughout all of Japan, which means there are a huge number of amazing places to enjoy this cherished pastime – and everyone has their own opinion as to which is “the best.”
So rather than listing every amazing hanami spot in Japan, we’re going to tell you about some of our favorite places!
Despite being a huge city, Tokyo is full of beautiful hanami spots.
For one of the most breathtaking views imaginable, head to Chidorigafuchi. We also recommend Shinjuku Gyoen, one of Tokyo’s most beautiful gardens, for a picnic. It can be crowded, but it’s well worth it (note that there is a small entrance fee, and sake and beer have been known to be confiscated at the gate).
At night head over to Naka-Meguro, Yoyogi Park or Ueno Park for a festive night of drinking and hanami. Locals come prepared with blankets, grills, warm clothes, and plenty of beverages.
If you’re lucky you’ll be rewarded with an otherworldly sea of cherry blossoms.
Kyoto is Japan’s most popular hanami destination, and with good reason. No matter where you go in this city, you’ll stumble upon a hanami celebration in progress.
During the day we recommend a walk along the Philosopher’s Path. A peaceful walk at most times of year, this is a lovely path that meanders along a canal lined with hundreds of cherry blossom trees. Start near Ginkakuji, the beautiful Silver Pavilion, and end at Nanzenji Temple.
At night head to Maruyama Park, in the historic Higashiyama district, right by the Gion geisha district. Here you’ll find cherry blossom celebrations underway, with food stalls and masses of people eating, drinking and having a great time.
Don’t miss the stunning Shimbashi Dori, a street along the picturesque Shirakawa Canal in Gion that is lined with cherry blossoms
If you want to head to a smaller city that is full of history and great for hanami, we recommend Kanazawa.
Kanazawa is one of Japan’s most well-preserved cities, with picturesque geisha and samurai districts, and is perhaps most famous for being home to one of Japan’s top 3 gardens, Kenrokuen.
Kenrokuen is a stunning place to enjoy hanami, both during the day and night. When the cherry blossoms are at their peak, the entrance fee to the park is waived, and the atmosphere becomes just magical!
Kanazawa is easily reached by train from Tokyo or Kyoto. The Hokuriku Shinkansen (Hokuriku Bullet Train) takes you from Tokyo to Kanazawa in just about 2 hours 30 minutes. Traveling between Kanazawa and Kyoto is also straightforward, with the Limited Express JR Thunder Bird train making the trip in just over 2 hours.