Posted in Culture, Photography, Travel

10 fantastic sakura spots throughout Japan

Any Japanese has a weak spot for sakura. Myriads of trees all with the same bright blossom give the entire country a new colour and atmosphere, but only for a short time. Before you know it, the leaves will start floating in the air like pink snow, and once they reach the surface, it’s over. But for as long as they last, it is as if the whole nation blooms together with them.

In this entry, I will introduce you to some of my favorite spots throughout the whole country that will make you ‘bloom’ as well for sure!

1. Nagatoro town, Saitama

法善寺 枝垂れ桜A little stone Buddha statue under a pink-waterfall-like weeping sakura.

The picturesque riverside town of Nagatoro is one big Ohanami Spot with more than 3,000 sakura trees to overwhelm you. Strolling around the Kita Sakura Dori Avenue and the Minami Sakura Dori Avenue is like being in a fairytale, as the trees lining here create seemingly endless sakura tunnels. Also be sure to take the ropeway to enjoy the blossoms from the Hodosan hill.

北桜通り (2)This sakura tunnel goes on for 4 kilometers.

Spot Information

 Access: 80-min by train on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line (Express) from Ikebukuro to Chichibu, followed by 20-min by train on the Chichibu Railway to Nagatoro.

Blossom Period: From early April to late April

URL: http://www.nagatoro.gr.jp/en/

 2. Osaka Castle, Osaka

l_105237Osaka Castle, Osaka’s most renowned Ohanami spot. 

I have seen a lot of sakura in my 10 years in Japan, but very few spots complement them as well as the castle of Osaka does. This historical site with Osaka’s urban skyscrapers in the back makes for an impressive fusion display of the old and new that is further enhanced by the brilliance of the surrounding sakura.

l_180539Osaka Castle is surrounded by a total of more than 3,000 sakura.

Spot Information

Osaka-jo, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka

A 10 minutes walk from Osaka Municipal Subway Tanimachi-line and Chuo-line Tanimachi Yonchome station.

Blossom period: From late March to early April.

URL: http://www.osakacastle.net/english/

3. Kawaguchi Lake East Shore, Yamanashi

156-2A spot any photographer shouldn’t miss

How can something be more Japanese than the imposing Mount Fuji together with beautiful sakura blossoms? Add a stunning blue lake to that and you have one of the most impressive nature panoramas in the world.

41-11-3

Hmm, Mount Fuji and Sakura, I have a hunch that this picture might have been taken in Japan, don’t you?

Spot Information

North shore of Lake Kawaguchi, Fujikawaguchiko-machi, Yamanashi.

Access: Take the Retro Bus (Kawaguchi-ko Sightseeing Bus Round Tour) from Fujikyuko Kawaguchiko-line Kawaguchiko Station and get off at Kawaguchiko Museum of Art after approximately 20 minutes.

Blossom period: The middle part of April.

URL: http://www.fujisan.ne.jp/index_e.php

4. Nakijin Castle, Okinawa

中井英子(題名:はじめての桜まつり)優秀賞 (1)Winter sakura at Nakijin Castle’s relics

For those who can’t wait to be surrounded by Japan’s iconic leaves, the sakura in Okinawa will start blossoming earlier than in all other parts of Japan and can be enjoyed from the end of January to mid-February.

Nakijin Castle is definitely my favorite sakura spot in Okinawa. The rose-like kanhizakura (寒緋桜, winter sakura) that escort you to the relics of this six-hundred-year-old castle, are a variety hard to find outside of the island.

?????????????The pathway will be filled with visitors during the blossom period.

Spot Information

Imadomari, Nakijin-son Kunigami-gun, Okinawa

Access by car: Take the Okinawa Express Way heading for Kyoda from Naha Airport. Transfer to R58 to Nago and head for Nakajin Village via R505. Total traveling time is approximately 2 hours.

Blossom period: From late January to early February

URL: http://nakijinjo.jp/english/index.html

5. Isshingyo no Ozakura, Kumamoto

50118800_72AThe imposing Isshingyo no Ozakura tree surrounded by rapeseed fields.

The contrast created by the surrounding rapeseed fields as well as the absence of other sakura trees really make the grand “Isshingyou no Ozakura” tree stand out. Amazed by its pure size, I remember not being able to stop just staring at it.

一心行(ライトアップ H24.4.12)_032Magnificently lit-up in the evening.

Spot Information

3226-1 Nakamatsu, Minamiaso-mura Aso-gun, Kumamoto,

Access: A 15 minute walk from Minami Aso Railway Nakamatsu Station.

Blossom period: From late March to early April.

URL: http://www.vill.minamiaso.lg.jp/ (Click Foreign Language for an English translation)

 6. Daigo Temple, Kyoto

daigoji3The Daigoji Temple has been a beloved Ohanami spot since the 16th century.

The Daigo Temple is one of my favorite sakura spots in Kyoto, as it is truly an all-in-one package. A sakura tunnel, a sacred temple surrounded by a wide variety of different sakura, and last but not least, a wonderful weeping sakura with a 5-storied pagoda in the back. Trust me, no location could possibly be any more ‘Kyoto’ than this.

50116692_72AEnjoy many different types of sakura at the Daigoji Temple.

Spot Information

Daigo Higashiojicho, Fushimi-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto,

A 10 minute walk from Kyoto Municipal Subway Tozai-line Daigo station.

Blossom period: From late March to early April.

URL: https://www.daigoji.or.jp/index_e.html

 

7. Takada Park, Niigata

l_101248Takada Park, one of the most famous spots for Yozakura (night-sakura).

If you prefer a traditional style over modern styles like I do, Takada Park’s night sakura are for you. Two thousand Japanese paper-shade lanterns distinguish the site from often-seen modern illumination and create a traditional feeling that perfectly matches this ancient castle surrounded by a moat with watchtowers on each corner.

11 Nigata Takada Park 2The reddish lights give the sakura a warm feeling.

Spot information

Motoshiro-Cho, Joetsu-shi, Niigata

A 20 minute walk from JR Takada Station.

Blossom period: From early April to mid-April.

URL: https://www.city.joetsu.niigata.jp/soshiki/toshiseibi/takada-park.html (Click English for an English translation)

8. Kenroku Garden, Ishikawa

024_nHop on the new Hokuriku Shinkansen to visit Kenroku Garden in Ishikawa.

Kenroku Garden in Kanazawa of Ishikawa prefecture, is one of Japan’s most beautiful gardens, and the sakura spot to visit in the Hokuriku area. To me, this garden is like a forest of Japanese wonders, as there are many lanterns, bridges, sacred stones and other traditional landmarks to discover under the trees and flowers.

The garden boasts a great variety of sakura. The Kiku-zakura for example, is a rare sort that counts 300 leaves on each bloom. In early April, the garden will be lit up and is free to enter.

c07d8889Kenroku Garden is literally filled with sakura!

Spot information

1 Kenroku-machi, Kanazawa-shi, Isikawa

Take the Hokuriku-tetsudo bus from JR Kanazawa station heading for Kodatsuno, get off at “Kenrokuen Garden” after approximately 15 minutes.

Blossom period: From early April to mid-April

http://www.pref.ishikawa.jp/siro-niwa/kenrokuen/e/index.html

 9. Hirosaki Castle Park, Aomori

DSC_6062Sakura at the western moat of Hirosaki Castle Park.

This four-hundred-year-old castle is surrounded by more than two thousand sakura trees of more than fifty varieties. The sakura will be illuminated together with the castle itself until 10 p.m. during the Hirosaki Sakura Festival from April 23 to May 6.

I found the sakura at the western moat especially impressive, and crossing the traditional Japanese crimson bridge alone was enough to make me happy. If you can, definitely try going for a row in the moat once the blossoms begin to scatter.

DSC_0004The park and castle itself will be illuminated until 22:00.

Spot Information

1 Shimo-shirogane-cho, Hirosaki-shi, Aomori

Take the Konan bus from JR Hirosaki station and get off at “Shiyakusho-mae Koen-iriguchi” after approximately 15 minutes.

Blossom period: From late April to early May.

http://www.hirosakipark.jp/ (Japanese only)

 

10. Goryokaku, Hokkaido

02_空撮(春)

Goryokaku, the pink star of Hokkaido

As a sakura spot, Goryokaku is very different from its many counterparts. This French inspired star-shaped fort almost feels like a touristic site in Europe, but with a Japanese touch to it courtesy of the sakura in a fashion similar to that of fusion food. I highly recommend this site to any sakura lover that is looking for something fresh and unique!

DSC_0466

Head up to the observation deck of Goryokaku Tower for a bird’s-eye view!

Spot Information

44 Goryokaku-cho, Hakodate-shi Hokkaido

Take the Hakodate city tram from JR Hakodate Station and get off at “Goryokaku Koen-mae” after approximately 15 minutes.

Blossom period: From late April to early May.

URL: http://www.city.hakodate.hokkaido.jp/docs/2014013100457/

 

Allow me to end this post with a big thanks to all the local governments, institutions and other facilities mentioned below that have provided the photos for this entry.

Nagatoromachi Tourist Association, JNTO, Fujikawaguchiko, Nakijin Tourism Association, Minamiaso Village, Ishikawa Prefecture, Hirosaki Tourism And Convention Bureau, Hakodate International Tourism and Convention Association, Goryokaku Tower

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