With its snowy, Sea of Japan climate, Kanazawa’s cherry trees are in no hurry to flower, usually bursting forth from early to mid-April. This means the Kanazawa blossoms are usually about 10 days behind their cousins in Tokyo. So if you’ve mistimed your trip to see the fickle flowers in Tokyo, you can always hop on a train or bus to this lovely city. That said, the beautiful setting of Kanazawa makes doing hanami here a more than worthwhile trip all on its own.
One of the great things about Kanazawa is its compactness, so you could see all the best spots in one day. Luckily, most of them also encompass some of the city’s biggest attractions so you won’t be missing anything.
1. Along the Sai River
The Sai River is one of two rivers that run through Kanazawa, this one on the western side of the city. The main cherry blossom zone is on the east bank. Sitting under the trees, you can admire the ryokan- and temple-covered hillside of Teramachi which ascends on the other side of the river. Teramachi is also home to the Ninja Temple and neighbors the Nishi Chaya district, so this is a great spot to relax either before or after visiting these attractions.
Sai River Riverbank Park
2. Kazue-machi Chaya district
One of the three famed teahouse districts of Kanazawa, Kazue-machi runs along Kanazawa’s other major river, the Asano River. While teahouses populate one side of the street, the other is lined with mature cherry blossom trees overhanging the river. In the evening, the blossoms are illuminated with lanterns.
Kazuemachi Chaya District
3. Kanazawa Castle
Adjacent to Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa Castle provides a classical backdrop to the large cherry trees. While the view can be enjoyed at any time of day, the petals and castle are especially impressive after dark when they are illuminated with spotlights.
4. Kenrokuen Gardens
Right next door to the castle (accessible via a pedestrian bridge that spans the road dividing the castle and the gardens), Kenrokuen is not surprisingly the top spot in Kanazawa to get your hanami fix. With various varieties of sakura scattered throughout the park, you can just wander to your heart’s content. Be prepared for big crowds no matter what time of day. Kenrokuen is one of Japan’s most celebrated gardens and the reputation is deserved.
On the castle side of the park, you will find a small avenue of shops selling green tea and mochi sweet sets, ice cream and beer.