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Hokkaido is where plum and cherry trees blossom at the same time. Goryokaku was a western-style fort built by the Tokugawa shogunate (1857-66) in the harbour city of Hakodate.

Goryokaku Park, Hakodate

The fort, one of the largest ever constructed in Japan, was the centre of action in the war between the last remnants of the Tokugawa clan and the new Meiji government. The star-shaped ruins of the fort are now a park full of cherry blossom trees.

Flowering season: Late April to early May
Access: From Hakodate Station on the JR Hakodate Line, take the streetcar to Goryokaku-koen-mae stop (15 mins). The park is 15 min on foot from the streetcar stop.
Further information: Hakodate-Southern Hokkaido Tourist Guide

Hirosaki Castle Park is one of the best spots for viewing cherry trees in the Tohoku region. In this park, there is a castle with turrets and gates as a visual reminder of bygone days, which was constructed by the Tsugaru family who once ruled the whole area.

Hirosaki Castle

For the perfect picture experience, walk along the castle's western moat to capture the bright red Shunyo Bridge, stately castle tower, pale pink cherry blossoms, and snow-crested Mt. Iwaki. The Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival is usually held every year from 23 April to 5 May, dates varying.

The park is about 49.2 hectares wide, and has about 2,600 trees of 50 different varieties, mainly Somei-yoshino. The records indicate that 25 cherry trees were planted in "Nishi-no-Kuruwa" in 1715, and among these trees, Kanzan and Kasumi-zakura still bloom now in the spring. The 120 year-old Somei-yoshino is also very popular, and is said to be the oldest in Japan, planted at the beginning of the Meiji Era.

Flowering season: Late April to late May
Access: 15 min by Konan Bus from JR Hirosaki Station to Shiyakusho-mae-koen-iriguchi. It is a 1 min walk from the bus stop.
Further information: Hirosaki CityAomori Prefecture Tourism Guide

Kakunodate is located almost at the centre of Akita Prefecture. The beautiful weeping cherry trees (shidare-zakura) and the classic samurai residences in Kakunodate have a history stretching back over 300 years.

Kakunodate

Come cherry blossom season in April, the area's best feature is the 2 km stroll through the magnificent tunnel of flowering trees lining the Hinokinai River. The 152 trees are classed amongst the nation's natural monuments, and show a beautiful contrast against the black walls of the samurai residences.

Flowering season: Late April to late May
Access: Exit at JR Kakunodate Station (Akita Shinkansen Line).
Further information: Kakunodate Tourist Association

Ueno Park is one of Japan's most crowded, noisy and popular cherry blossom spots, featuring more than 1,000 trees along the street leading towards the National Museum and around Shinobazu Pond.

Ueno Park in spring

Trees are lit up in the evenings. The rows of cherry trees, Somei-yoshino and mountain cherry trees (yama-zakura), bloom magnificently in spring, making the park very popular for holding parties under a canopy of beautiful flowers.

Flowering season: Late March to late April
Access: 5 min walk from JR Ueno Station (Yamanote Line).
Further information: JNTO’s Ueno info page

Shinjuku Gyoen Garden is the location of the samurai residence of the Naito family.

Kindergarteners in Shinjuku Gyoen

The garden was later designated as an Imperial garden, and then as a national garden in 1949. It has been famous for its cherry trees since the Meiji Era (1868-1912), and today is one fo the most popular spots in Tokyo to enjoy the spring blooms.

Flowering season: Late March to late April
Access: 10 min walk from JR Shinjuku Station (Yamanote Line), or exit at Shinjuku-gyoen-mae Station (Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line).
Further information: JNTO’s Shinjuku info page

Nagoya Castle is known as one of Japans greatest castles, alongside Himeji and Kumamoto Castles. The founder of the shogun government that ruled Japan over roughly 265 years from the beginning of the 17th century, Tokugawa Ieyasu, had the castle completed by mobilizing influential daimyo from all over the country.

Nagoya Castle

The rooms on the first through the fifth floors are used to display art treasures that escaped the fires during the war, while the seventh floor serves as a scenic observatory. In the display rooms are exhibited some pieces of fusuma-e (paintings on sliding doors) and ceiling-panel paintings, which were formerly used in the lord’s mansion on the castle grounds. It houses a total of 1,047 such paintings, all of which are registered as Important Cultural Properties.

The castle is at its most beautiful in cherry blossom season when many somei yoshino trees, several weeping cherry trees and small numbers of less commonly seen cherry tree varieties are in bloom around the pleasant park and along the moats of the castle.

Flowering season: Late March to early April. Visitors can enjoy viewing illuminated cherry blossoms at night.
Access: short walk from Shiyakusho-mae Station, Nagoya City
Further information: Nagoya CastleNagoya Convention & Visitors Bureau

Maruyama Park is the oldest park in Kyoto and is renowned for its huge weeping cherry trees, best viewed at night. Beginning in early April the illuminated trees always attract scores of people. Cherry blossom season continues through April, as trees on the mountainside start to blossom while the park's trees fade to green.

Maruyama Park

You can also explore the Philosopher's Path which is a walking track from Ginkaku-ji Temple to Wakaoji-jinja Shrine, to see a vista of cherry blossoms on both sides of the river path from Lake Biwa-ko. The cherry blossom petals floating on the water add to what is already a beautiful and atmospheric walk between the historic monuments such as Ginkaku-ji Temple, Honen-in Shrine, and Eikan-do Temple. The season of magnificent autumn tints is also a lovely time to stroll along the Philosopher’s Path.

During April in Arashiyama, the cherry blossoms flower profusely all over the area from Togetsu-kyo Bridge to Arashiyama-Nakanoshima Park, the bank of the O-i-gawa River, and Kameyama Park behind Tenryu-ji Temple. The road along the Katsura-gawa River lined with fifty-year-old trees that form a tunnel of cherry blossoms, making it a stunning place for a springtime stroll. The weeping cherry trees (shidare-zakura) in Tenryu-ji Temple are also splendid. The scenery from Bokyo-no-oka, a small hill in the precincts, provides special and stunning views unique to Kyoto.

Flowering season: Late March to late April
Access: Yasaka-Maruyama, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto / Sakyo-ku, Kyoto. 15mins ride by bus from JR Kyoto Station.
Further information: Welcome to Kyoto

Nara Park is a historical park surrounding Todai-ji Temple, Kofuku-ji Temple and Shoso-in Repository. Constructed in the Tempyo Period (710-784), it spreads over a vast area (660 ha) of a lush and green landscape.

Ukimido pavilion, Nara

Herds of deer are renowned there as the holy messengers of Kasuga-taisha Shrine, and are placed under careful protection. The park has about 1,700 cherry trees of various kinds, including Narayae-zakura and Kokonoe-zakura. It also offers a number of scenic spots, such as Sagi Pond, the foot of Mt. Wakakusa, the remains of To-do Tower, the Kofuku-ji Temple area, Ara Pond, Kasugano-enchi, and the Todai-ji Temple area. Be sure to allow enough time for strolling here.

Flowering season: Late March to late April
Access: 10 min walk from Kintetsu Nara Station
Further information: Nara sightseeing information

Mt. Yoshino, located almost at the centre of Nara Prefecture, is said by many to be Japan's best location for viewing cherry blossoms.

Mt Yoshino, Nara

Many years ago, people had a custom of dedicating cherry tree seedlings to the Zao-do Hall of Kinpusen-ji Temple. The trees were later replanted in the neighbouring mountains, which is how this beautiful spot originated. When the spring comes, approximately 30,000 cherry trees (mainly Shiroyama-zakura) start blooming from Shimo-senbon (the foot of the mountain) to Naka-senbon (halfway down), Kami-senbon (halfway up), and finally to Oku-senbon (the peak), displaying a gorgeous vista of flowers for as long as a month. 

Flowering season: Early to late April
Access: Take the Yoshino Ropeway (aerial tramway) for 3 min from Yoshino Station (Kintetsu Yoshino Line) to Yoshino-yama Station.
Further information: Nara sightseeing information

Kumamoto Castle is one of the three most famous castles of Japan and was built in the early 17th century by Kato Kiyomasa. The castle has a number of interesting features, such as a stone wall called Musha-gaeshi, the castle tower, which forms a beautiful contrast of black and white, and Naga-bei (the long wall).

Kumamoto Castle, Kyushu

However, it is the 800 cherry trees that add unrivalled elegance to the castle. The main varieties are Somei-yoshino as well as mountain cherry trees (yama-zakura) and Higo-zakura which make the square in front of the castle tower and the front of Naga-bei a wonderful spot for cherry blossom viewing. This vast castle area is also a cultural place, and houses the Kumamoto Prefectural Museum of Art, the Kumamoto City Museum, the Kenmotsudai Botanical Garden, and the Kumamoto Prefectural Traditional Crafts Centre.

Flowering season: Late March to early April
Access: 15 min ride from JR Kumamoto Station to Kumamotojo-mae Station (Kumamoto City Tram). It is a 10 min walk from the station.
Further information: Kumamoto Guide

From 25 March - April 3 (dates dependent on year of travel), Maizuru Park is home to Fukuoka's cherry blossom festival, where the 1000 cherry blossom trees are lit up and cast a pink glow over the castle ruins.

Cherry blossom festival in Fukuoka

The festival feeling is enhanced by the food stalls which line the park, an event which attracts visitors from nearby regions. Whilst in Fukuoka, you can also stop by Ohori Park or Nishi Park for a 'hanami' experience.

Flowering season: Late March to early April
Access: The Fukuoka Castle Ruins can be reached in a 10-15 minute walk from Ohori Koen Subway Station.
Further information: www.crossroadfukuoka.jp/en/

The Otani River, which runs through Kinosaki Onsen town, is scattered with cherry blossom on its surface during spring, when the sakura trees lining Kiyamachi Road shed their delicate petals.

Kinosaki during cherry blossom season

At night the trees are lit up, casting a romantically atmospheric pink glow over the street and river. If you're staying in the area, another cherry blossom viewing spot nearby is Izushi Castle Town, which has two varieties of blossoms, meaning the season lasts slightly longer in this area.

Flowering season: Late March and early April
Access: From JR Kyoto station, it takes approximately 2.5hours by Limited Express train to Kinosaki Onsen. 
Further information: Visit Kinosaki

Takayama City's biannual festival brings visitors flocking to Gifu prefecture year after year. Never is there a prettier time to visit, however, than when the cherry blossom leaves frame this festival with a pink and white border.

Takayama spring festival

The elaborately decorated floats, which are hauled down the street during this spring festival (usually held between 14-15 April) are even more enchanting at night, when lit up by Japanese lanterns. An ideal way to pass the day in Takayama in spring would be to spend the day boating down the Suimon River in a traditional Japanese 'washtub' style boat beneath the falling petals, followed by admiring the glow of the sakura trees during the spectacle of the evening festival, whilst indulging in festival food and the exultant atmosphere.

Flowering season: Late March to early April
Access: From Tokyo you can reach Takayama via Nagoya or Toyama. You will then need to take the JR Hida limited express train to Takayama (140 minutes from Nagoya, 90 minutes from Toyama)
Further information: Travel Kanko Gifu