20 Sites to Enjoy Cherry Blossoms in the Japanese Countryside
Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, is a popular springtime activity in Japan, and there are many places to enjoy it all throughout the country, from Hokkaido to Okinawa, stopping by famous attractions like Himeji Castle and Miyajima. Here are Japan’s great spots for enjoying cherry blossoms that are a bit off the beaten path - great for those of you who want to get away from the Tokyo or Osaka areas and enjoy the scenic beauty of the countryside! Have a picnic, take a stroll through flower tunnels, or party under the blooming trees - try a countryside hanami for a wonderful experience.
Apr 05 2016 (Sep 09 2020)
1. Goryokaku Fort [Hakodate, Hokkaido]
The Goryokaku, a star-shaped, Western-style fortress, is embellished with cherry blossoms from early to mid-May. The over 1,600 cherry trees planted along its moats can be overlooked from the observation deck (90m high) of the neighboring Goryokaku Tower, or admired from rental boats. While you're in Hakodate, have a taste of the local specialty of "Genghis Khan" ("Mongolian" mutton barbecue)! The night view is formidable as well, but don't forget to keep yourself warm, as temperature range between 5 and 15 degrees.
HP: www.hakonavi.ne.jp/site/course1/goryokaku.html (Japanese Only)
Address: Goryokakucho, Hakodate-shi, Hokkaido (Google Maps)
2. Hirosaki Castle [Hirosaki, Aomori]
Hirosaki Castle is one of Japan’s best spots to enjoy cherry blossoms, filled with over 2,600 cherry trees of approximately 50 varieties. Its well-maintained trees include more than 300 that are over 100 years old and are known as Japan’s most beautiful; the sight of petals filling the moats is impressive as well. The Sakura Festival in 2020 is to be held from April 23rd to May 6th but is subject to change. Be sure to bring jackets for the nighttime, as the temperature often falls to under 10 degrees during this period.
Address: 1 Shimoshirogane-cho, Hirosaki-shi, Aomori (Google Maps)
3. Ashino Park [Goshogawara, Aomori]
Situated along Lake Ashino, Ashino Park is another popular hanami spot in Aomori. The main attraction is the cherry blossom tunnel near the closest station, Ashino-Koen on the Tsugaru Railway. Walking along the lakeside, with over 1500 cherry trees in full bloom, is absolutely delightful. The best viewing period is from late April to early May.
Address: Ashino, Kanagicho, Goshogawara-shi, Aomori (Google Maps)
4. Kakunodate [Semboku, Akita]
The town of Kakunodate is renowned for its well-preserved former samurai district. In spring, weeping cherry trees, Shidare-zakura, give a pink shade to the black-walled residential area. The history of cherry trees dates back over 350 years, and the oldest weeping tree is over 300 years old. The rivers nearby are also lined with several hundred Somei Yoshino trees, which are a popular variety of cherry tree. The local cherry blossom festival is to be held from April 20th to May 5th in 2020.
Address: Kakunodatecho, Semboku-shi, Akita (Google Maps)
What exactly should (or shouldn't) you do once you arrive at your hanami spot? Read this article for a list of do's and don'ts.
5. Kitakami Tenshochi [Kitakami, Iwate]
This park is considered as one of the three best cherry blossom spots in the Tohoku region, and it features around 2km-long cherry blossom tunnels along the Kitakami River. The sight of over ten thousand cherry trees in bloom is spectacular. The local cherry blossom festival will be held from April 15th to May 6th in 2020; carriages, pleasure boats, and ferries are in service during the period.
Address: Tachibana, Kitakami-shi, Iwate (Google Maps)
6. Miharu Takizakura [Tamura, Fukushima]
The Takizakura is one of the three biggest cherry trees in Japan, over 1,000 years old and of the shidare-zakura ("weeping tree") variety. The tree is 13.5m in height and 8.1m in girth, and the blossoms on its countless drooping branches are reminiscent of a waterfall ("taki" in Japanese) - hence its name, Taki-zakura. So many people come to see it that a special JR train and a special bus from JR Miharu station run during its flowering season. The estimated flowering period is from early to mid-April.
HP: http://miharukoma.com/experience/183 (Japanese Only)
Address: Sakurakubo Taki, Miharu-machi, Tamura-gun, Fukushima (Google Maps)
7. Hanami-yama Park [Fukushima, Fukushima]
Hanami-yama, the private property of a local farmer, is open to the public as the owner wishes to share the blossoms' delight with others. For many years, his family has planted various flowering trees, including the Tokai-zakura and Somei Yoshino varieties of cherry trees. The hillside and surrounding area are very colorful, as varieties of flowers bloom one after another against a back drop of the snow-crested Azuma mountain range. A special bus from JR Fukushima station runs in the flower season throughout April.
Address: Hara, Watari, Fukushima-shi, Fukushima (Google Map)
As mentioned, this article skips the major cities, but if you're in Tokyo and are interested in some cherry-blossom viewing, check out this article!
8. Kenrokuen and Kanazawa Castle Park [Kanazawa, Ishikawa]
The Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa, on Japan's northern coast, is regarded as one of Japan's Three Great Gardens and becomes even more beautiful during cherry blossom season. The area is covered in pink, from 420 cherry trees of over 40 varieties from early to late April. The garden is open to the public for free for seven days after the opening of flowers, and the night illumination is a photogenic scene as well. The estimated best viewing period is early April.
Address: Kenrokumachi, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa (Google Maps)
9. Takato Castle Ruins Park [Ina, Nagano]
The cherry trees on the grounds were originally replanted from a local clan's riding ground. Over 1,500 Takato Higan-zakura blossoms, a cherry tree specific to Takato, transform the area into a reddish-pink. The estimated best period is early April. A special bus for 100 yen runs from JR Takato station during the peak season. Snow-crested mountains and gorgeous cherry blossoms make for a rare photogenic scene.
Address: Takatomachi Higashi Takato, Ina-shi, Nagano (Google Maps)
10. Takayama [Takayama, Gifu]
Takayama is most famous for its well-maintained, traditional townscape but features cherry blossoms in the spring as well. If you are to visit the town during the Spring Festival on April 14-15 and are lucky to see cherry trees in bloom, it should be gorgeous. The peak period is usually mid- to late April.
Address: Takayama-shi, Gifu (Google Maps)
11. Okazaki Koen Park [Okazaki, Aichi]
Okazaki Park is ranked as the best spot to enjoy cherry blossoms lit up at night in the Tokai region. Over 800 cherry trees bloom in the park, located within the Okazaki Castle grounds, and along the riverside nearby. During the peak period, the whole area is crowded with people and food stands. The 2020 sakura festival is to be held from March 26th to April 10th. It is a 15 minute-walk away from Meitetsu Higashi Okazaki Station.
Address: 561, Koseicho, Okazaki-shi, Aichi (Google Maps)
This article focuses on the countryside because the sight of cherry blossoms surrouding a majestic castle, mountain, or riverside makes for a quintessentially Japanese experience. But there's something special about cherry blossoms in Japan's historic capital city, so we've compiled an article on Kyoto as well!
12. Yoshino-yama [Yoshino, Nara]
Are you interested in the original way of Hanami? Then you should visit Yoshinoyama, or Mt. Yoshino, which has long been renowned for beautiful cherry blossoms covering a whole mountain. Approximately 30,000 cherry trees of various varieties, including Yama-zakura ("mountain cherry"), bloom one after another for about a month. It is a 3-minute walk from Yoshinoyama Station (Kintetsu Railway) to the Yoshinoyama Ropeway station. The flower-peak tends to be in mid-April, starting from the foot towards the peak area. Be sure to bring warm clothes, as temperatures range between 5 to 20 degrees in April.
Address: Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Yoshino-gun, Nara (Google Maps)
13. Himeji Castle [Himeji, Hyogo]
Himeji Castle, built in 1609, is a popular tourist destination, especially since major renovation work was completed in 2015. The great white castle looks magnificent in combination with around 1,000 cherry trees in full bloom, and the area tends to be crowded with tourists. If you'd like to enjoy Hanami in a more relaxed atmosphere with fewer tourists, a recommended spot is Kokoen Garden, a Japanese restaurant and tea house beside the castle.
Address: 68 Honmachi, Himeji-shi, Hyogo (Google Maps)
14. Tsuyama Castle [Okayama]
Kakuzan Park, built on the ruins of Tsuyama Castle, is one of the top cherry blossom sites in western Japan. Over 1,000 cherry trees are spread across the grounds, many situated atop the 10m-tall stone walls; look down on them from the main enclosure, and they look like a sea of cherry blossoms. The 2020 sakura Festival will be held between March 28th and April 12th. The park is at a 10-minute walk from JR Tsuyama Station.
Address: 135 Sange, Tsuyama-shi, Okayama (Google Maps)
15. Shiude-yama [Kagawa]
The 352m-tall Shiudeyama, or Mt. Shiude, is a great place to enjoy a panoramic view of the Seto Inland Sea. During the cherry blossom flowering season, usually from late March to mid April, you can enjoy the scenic beauty of the soft pink blossoms of about 1,000 cherry trees against the backdrop of an archipelago. It's about 1 hour hike up from Shiudeyama Tozanguchi bus stop, and the closest station is JR Takuma station. Prepare a nice picnic as well!
Address: 451-1 Takumacho Ohama, Mitoyo-shi, Kagawa (Google Maps)
While you're on your cherry-blossom pilgrimmage, enjoying the flower's sights and scents, give it a taste as well! Plenty of delicacies are made featuring the flower, and they're a great way to commemorate this special season!
16. Miyajima [Miyajima, Hiroshima]
Miyajima in Hiroshima is renowned as one of the three greatest views in Japan. Approximately 1,900 cherry trees of different varieties bloom at and around Itsukushima Shrine, and the uguisu walking path connected to the ropeway station is also popular for its scenic view of cherry blossoms. The flowering season is usually from late March to early April. Don't miss the romantic illumination of this cultural heritage at night!
Address: Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi-shi, Hiroshima (Google Maps)
17. Kintaikyo Bridge [Iwakuni, Yamaguchi]
Kintaikyo is a massive wooden arch bridge (210m in length) made without any nails and is one of Japan's three famous bridges, representing Yamaguchi Prefecture. Beside the historical architecture, the neighboring Kikko Park is also a popular hanami spot, with a magnificent view of about 3000 Somei Yoshino cherries in bloom. It it a 20-minute bus ride from Iwakuni Station to the Kintaikyo bus stop. The peak of flowering is from the end of March to early April.
Address: Yokoyama, Iwakuni-shi, Yamaguchi (Google Maps)
18. Saitobaru Burial Mounds [Miyazaki]
The pretty combination of clear colors is this historic site's main attraction from late March to early April. Alongside the pink cherry blossoms lined for about 800m, the countless nanohana flowers, the blue sky, and their magnificent night illumination, it would be great to try the food stands during the flower festival, over one week between late March and early April. Driving is the best way to get there, although the car park does get crowded.
Address: Miyake, Saito-shi, Miyazaki (Google Maps)
19. Isshingyo no Sakura [Minamiaso, Kumamoto]
An approximately 400-year-old grand cherry tree, 14m in height and 7.35m in girth, stands in the countryside of Aso. Its round viewing path offers a view both of the huge tree and of the Aso mountains. Legend has it that this tree was planted in memory of a late feudal lord. It is a 15-minute walk from Nakamatsu Station (Minamiaso Railway).
Address: 3226-1 Nakamatsu, Minamiaso-mura, Aso-gun, Kumamoto (Google Maps)
20. Nakijin Castle Remains [Okinawa]
Okinawa offers a different cherry blossom experience, because a different kind of tree is prominent called the Hikan-zakura, which is a deeper pink than the Somei Yoshino popular on the main islands. Nakijin Castle in Okinawa played a prominent role back when Okinawa was the Ryukyuan Kingdom; it is situated a 15-minute walk from the Nakijin Castle Entrance bus stop. Plan a visit while the cherry blossoms are in bloom, between mid-January and early February, and enjoy a lovely stroll through the castle site across the hill.
Address: 5101 Imadomari, Nakijin-son, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa (Google Maps)
Tips to Enjoy Hanami
There are many varieties of cherry trees in Japan that provide a diversity of flower colors, petal numbers, and forms of trees, although the Somei Yoshino variety is the most popular. The best time for springtime cherry blossoms varies from region to region, and the weather condition is unsettled at this time of year, wherever you go. It’s best to check the temperature of your destination beforehand and prepare proper clothes to keep you warm, especially when you are going to the north of Japan or to mountainous areas, or when you're looking for cherry blossoms lit up at nighttime. And if you're heading away from big cities, don't count on there being restaurants nearby; make or buy a lunch box for pleasant picnic in advance!
The big cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka might take all the spotlight, but Japan has so much more to offer, especially in terms of nature. The cherry blossom season is an excellent time to discover!
If you're planning a trip of your own, check out our Cherry Blossom Forecast 2020. We've rounded up when the best cherry blossoms spots in Japan are forecasted to be at their peak so you won't miss a thing!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.