Shibazakura festival

Cherry blossom season in Japan celebrates the ephemeral coming and passing of the pink ‘sakura’ blossoms. The tranquillity of sitting under the falling petals is one you will not easily forget once you’ve returned home at the end of your trip.

This tranquillity, however, can be put into question if you head to the major sightseeing spots during sakura season. Kyoto and Tokyo are likely to be heavily crowded with tourists, with hotel prices at a premium at this time.

For a far better experience of ‘hanami’ (flower viewing) during the spring season, your best bet is to head to alternative locations, where the blossoms bloom beautifully but where you’re not crowded for space. 

When the cherry blossoms arrive in Japan, they first spring up in Okinawa, a set of subtropical islands at the southern tip of Japan. The cherry blossoms usually spring up in February, making this a fantastic winter getaway – with the islands offering warm weather and tropical beaches and very few other holidaymakers. Try hiking Mt. Yaedake for a view over the cherry trees, or visit the Nakijin Castle Ruins – a UNESCO World Heritage site – which has endless rows of blossoming sakura trees.

Alternatively, visit Hirosaki Park in northern Tohoku, where a solemn castle stands surrounded by an incredible sea of pink. Or, in the same region at Tenshochi in Kitakami, you’ll find cherry blossom trees magnificently stood alongside the river, with the buds magically lit up at night to create a dream-like, romantic atmosphere.

In Hakodate, which you can reach via bullet train from Tokyo in just over four hours, the Goryokaku star-shaped fort is the place to view these magnificent blossoms. Cherry blossom season comes much later to Hokkaido, which means by catching the sakura here you can avoid expensive and overcrowded flights.