This is a truly awe-inspiring sight and it must be on everyone's bucket list. But with cherry trees blossoming in more than 1,000 sites across Japan, finding the best place to see them can be tricky.
But don’t worry, Aunt Betty is here to help. Last spring I took a flight to Japan to experience this phenomenon for myself. So now I’m going to take you on a whistle-stop tour of the country's best cherry blossom hot spots.
This is probably Japan's most popular cherry blossom destination thanks to the poems of Chiyo and Uejima Onitsura. Every year the mountains surrounding the town are transformed into a carpet of pink blooms. This is a sight to behold, but Yoshino is a small town and I found it crowded with throngs of tourists. So if you are seeking a little peace and quiet you may prefer to venture a little further off the beaten track to one of the other destinations in the list.
2. Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle is one of Japan’s most famous landmarks. Built in 1333 by Akamatsu Norimura, the castle is one of the last surviving examples of Japanese prototypical architecture. While it may be beautiful, the castle is not the star of the show come cherry blossom season. Each spring the 1,000 Sakura trees surrounding the fort burst into life providing a stunning spectacle of colour. With a display like this the mighty castle is relegated to nothing more than a backdrop.
3. Laki Ashi
Laki Ashi (Ashinoko) is most famous for calm waters and sandy beaches, but in the spring the shores of the lake are transformed by blushes of cherry blossoms. The best way to experience them is to take a boat tour from Moto-hakone Port. The tour takes about 30 minutes and you’ll get to experience the blooms along with cultural sites such as the Hakone-jinja shrine. And on a clear day, the majestic Mount Fuji makes the perfect backdrop to the blossoms.
4. Maruyama Park
The mountains of Maruyama park are covered with more than 30,000 cherry trees. The star of the show is, without doubt, one large tree whose blossom-filled branches bow to the ground under the weight of the blooms. This majestic tree is illuminated at night so it’s well worth sticking around until after dusk. Maruyama Park itself is also a beautiful setting which provides the perfect place for a picnic under the blossoming trees.
5. Fuji Five Lakes
Sitting at the foot of Mount Fuji, the Five Lakes are a popular tourist attraction at all times of the year. So expect it to be busy during the Sakura season. The best way to see the blossoms is to catch a bus from Kawaguchiko Station to Kawaguchiko or Yamanakako. This will drop in the heart of Sakura country and it's the perfect destination for hikers and hot springing. So you might want to bring your hiking boots with you as well.
6. Lake Kawaguchi
Lake Kawaguchi is the second largest of Fuji’s five lakes and regarded as the most beautiful. So if you don’t have time to explore the whole region I recommend sticking to Lake Kawaguchi. For the ultimate experience, you should aim to come early in the morning before sunrise. You will then be rewarded with an awe-inspiring display as the mist clears to reveal Mount Fuji framed by clouds of pink blossoms.
7. Ueno Park
So far the destinations on the list are a little off the beaten track. But if you don’t have time for an extended holiday, Ueno Park is the place to be. Set in the heart of bustling Tokyo, Ueno Park is the perfect place to combine cherry blossom spotting with a little shopping. The park is home to more than 1000 cherry trees along with some of Tokyo’s best museums. With many cheap flights to Tokyo available during the Spring, this is the perfect time to experience the city.
8. Matsumae Park
Matsumae Park, located in the southern part of Hokkaido, is home to Matsumae Castle. The park itself has two cherry blossom gardens which contain more than 250 varieties of cherry tree. The park is a beautiful tranquil place to visit at all times of the year, but it comes into its own during the cherry blossom season when lanterns are hung from the trees to create a magical light show after dark.
9. Hirosaki Castle
The ancient Hirosaki Castle is one of Japan’s most historic landmarks. Set in a tree-lined park and surrounded by a moat this has to be the prettiest place to view cherry blossoms on the list. During the cherry blossom season, the park is illuminated so you may want to come back after dusk to get the full sakura experience.
Japan is full of so much history and culture that you could come at any time of year and enjoy a truly memorable holiday. But for me, the absolute best time to visit is during the Sakura season. With cheap fares to Tokyo available from around the world during the spring, you will also get good value for money at this time of year.
So if you’ve never experienced Sakura before, why not make this the year to tick it off your bucket list. Sakura season runs from mid-March to early April, but times can change every year due to weather conditions. So always check estimated bloom times before looking for cheap flights to Japan.