In Japan, spring means cherry blossoms. But where do you go for the best sakura experience? Look no further, here are the best places to see cherry blossoms in Japan (outside of Tokyo).
Of course, there are lots of ways to enjoy sakura. From sakura matsuri (cherry blossom festivals) to hanami (cherry blossom viewing parties) and going for a nice stroll, how you choose to experience cherry blossoms in Japan is completely up to you. Some places are better for different activities though, so ask yourself first: do you prefer to paddle past the cherry blossoms or to gaze at romantic nighttime illuminations? (Both is possible!).
Do keep in mind that cherry blossom season is peak travel time for both domestic and international tourists. Expect crowds and higher prices no matter where you go.
If you’d rather stay in the Tokyo area, check out our mega guide to Tokyo sakura spots for the lowdown on all the best places to see cherry blossoms in the capital.
When is the best time to see cherry blossoms in Japan?
If you want to see cherry blossoms in Japan, you’re going to have to time it right. They’re only really in bloom for two weeks tops, a narrow window that takes place sometime between March and May — depending on where you are in Japan.
The north–south geography of the country means that the sakura bloom at different times in different locations; liekwise, mountain destinations bloom later than places at lower altitudes. Weather also plays a part — for example unseasonal rain (or even snow) can delay the season, or end it early.
One thing makes planning easier: the annual cherry blossom forecast, which predicts the first bloom and full bloom dates for different regions of Japan. The first forecast is usually released in January, and then is updated regularly all the way through March.
Japan cherry blossom forecast 2023
In 2023, the sakura season is starting earlier than usual, with some areas seeing first blooms as early as mid-March.
Note that the forecast is based on the Somei-Yoshino variety of cherry blossom, which is the most popular; however, there are actually many different varieties of cherry blossom, some of which bloom earlier or later than the Somei-Yoshino.
The Philosopher’s PathMarch 23 (first bloom) to March 31 (full bloom)
Higashiyama District, Kyoto
This classic Kyoto landmark is known as a meditative place for a stroll. The 2-km path meanders along a canal and is a popular place to admire nature and observe seasonal changes, but gets especially busy in spring. Part of the charm of the Philosopher’s Path though, it that it has lots of options for detours as you walk — so if the crowds are getting a bit much you can step off and explore a nearby shrine or temple.
Pro tip: The Philosopher’s Path is one of the most popular sakura spots in Kyoto, so go early in the morning if you’d like a more peaceful experience.
Miyajima IslandMarch 25 (first bloom) to April 1 (full bloom)
Itsukushima, Hiroshima Prefecture
Known for its red torii gate and friendly deer, Miyajima (officially called Itsukushima) is already a noteworthy destination. It’s just a short ferry ride from Hiroshima, and a popular day trip for those traveling in the area. Cherry blossom season adds even more charm, as the sakura cover the mountain in splashes of pink. Head up to the peak of Mt Misen to enjoy the view, or take a wonder along one of the walking trails.
Pro tip: Grab a Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass, which starts at ¥1,000 for a 1-day pass, and get unlimited use of buses, streetscars, and the Miyajima ferry. Plus, you’ll recieve a coupon book with lots of discounts.
Kintaikyō BridgeMarch 27 (first bloom) to April 3 (full bloom)
Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Located in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, this iconic bridge is considered one of the Three Great Bridges of Japan. And it’s easy to see why, with its five distinct arches stretching across the Nishiki River. It connects the main township of Iwakuni with Kikkō Park and Iwakuni Castle. In spring, the sakura trees along the river and in the park bloom, making for a stunning view. It’s easy to see why it’s the most popular cherry blossom viewing spot in this pocket of Japan.
Mount YoshinoMarch 29 (first bloom) to April 5 (full bloom)
Yoshino, Nara Prefecture
In Japan, Mt Yoshino is considered the most famous sakura spot in the whole country. This mountain in Nara Prefecture is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and home to 30,000 cherry trees. There are hiking trails and plenty of places to set up a picnic blanket for some mountainside hanami. We recommend the Hanayagura Observatory area for its stunning views.
Mt Yoshino is a great day trip from Osaka or Nara.
Kenrokuen GardenMarch 30 (first bloom) to April 4 (full bloom)
Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture
Located in the historic city of Kanazawa — a place known for its traditional atmosphere — Kenrokuen is a a stunning place to see sakura. Considered one of Japan’s Three Great Gardens, Kenrokuen is beautifully landscaped, with cherry trees along a lot of the streams. Keep in mind that this garden has an entry fee of ¥320.
When you’re finished admiring the garden, head next door to Kanazawa Castle, another of Kanazawa’s top sakura spots.
Chūreitō PagodaApril 4 (first bloom) to April 10 (full bloom)
Arakurayama Sengen Park, Yamanashi Prefecture
Ah yes, the classic Japan photo — Mt Fuji, a pagoda and cherry blossoms. There’s no two ways about it, Chūreitō Pagoda is so iconic it draws crowds all year round. But if you want this shot, you need to be lucky. You’ll need perfect weather to get an unobscured view of Mt Fuji and you’ll be fighting crowds all the way. It’s a steep walk up from the bottom, but there is a nice little photo platform so you can snap your pic and pretend no one else is there.
If you’d like to make a day trip from Tokyo, we recommend joining this special sakura-season-only tour. In addition to taking you to Chūreitō Pagoda, it includes tickets for the Mt Fuji panoramic ropeway and a lunch of Hōtō noodles — a local speciality.
Hirosaki ParkApril 17 (first bloom) to April 22 (full bloom)
Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture
Hirosaki Park, which surrounds Hirosaki Castle way up in Aomori Prefecture. Hirosaki Castle is one of only a few original castles in Japan — in other words, this is a real castle and not a reconstruction.
In terms of cherry blossoms, the park has everything. There are over 2,500 trees, forming tunnels of sakura; there are even two trees whose branches make a heart shape when viewed from the right angle. And of course, there are the nightly illuminations that are part of the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival — one of the most photegenic spring festivals around.
Fort GoryōkakuApril 24 (first bloom) to April 28 (full bloom)
Our last spot is in Hakodate on the northern island of Hokkaidō. Fort Goryōkaku is unique star-shaped fort that is considered one of the best spots for cherry blossoms in Hokkaidō. Originally it was a military defense fort, but it was converted to a public park in 1910. There are over 1,000 cherry trees planted along its moats.
To get the best views of the fort, head to the obervatory to atop Goryōkaku Tower.
While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change.