12 Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan

Nowhere does cherry blossom season quite like Japan: There are blogs, news reports, special menus, talk shows, and festivals following the trees as they go into full bloom across the country. There’s even a Japanese word, hanami, specifically devoted to the viewing of cherry blossoms (and picnicking beneath them). With this in mind, we’ve rounded up the top places in Japan to see cherry blossoms—so that you can hanami with the best of them.

Mount Yoshino (© Getty)

Mount Yoshino

In the Nara prefecture, Mount Yoshino has long been one of Japan’s most famous spots for viewing cherry blossoms, in part because its range of elevation means not all of its 30,000 cherry trees bloom at the same time. (The first trees here were supposedly planted some 1,300 years ago.)

Best viewing: April 5–14

Kyoto Botanical Garden (© Getty)

Kyoto Botanical Garden

A stone’s throw from Kitayama Station, Kyoto Botanical Garden is one of the most popular spots in the city for hanami. For peak photo opportunities, look for the weeping cherry tree in the center of the garden.

Best viewing: March 30–April 7

Philosopher’s Path, Kyoto (© Getty)

Philosopher’s Path, Kyoto

Also known as Tetsugaku no Michi, the stone Philosopher’s Path can be found in the northern part of Kyoto’s Higashiyama district. The path—which follows the Meiji-era Lake Biwa Canal—is said to have gotten its name from a legend involving philosopher Nishida Kitaro, who reportedly practiced meditation on his walk here. Today, it’s one of Kyoto’s most popular spots to view cherry blossoms, thanks to the trees that hang over the path and canal.

Best viewing: March 30–April 7

Kakunodate, Akita (© Getty)

Kakunodate, Akita

Known as a samurai district (it once housed 80 samurai families), Kakunodate is characterized by broad streets and lots of open courtyards, both of which take shade from large cherry blossom trees imported from Kyoto in the Edo Period (1603–1868). These “weeping” trees were said to have been planted by samurai themselves, who wanted to outperform each other.

Best viewing: April 23–May 6

Lake Kawaguchiko (© Getty)

Lake Kawaguchiko

We recommend Lake Kawaguchiko all year round, but as with many areas in Japan, it particularly shines during cherry blossom season. Head to the seaside promenade near the Kawaguchiko Music Forest (so named for its antique music-box museum) for views of Mount Fuji and cherry blossom trees—a postcard-worthy sight if we ever saw one.

Best viewing: April 6–22

Hirosaki Castle Park (© Getty)

Hirosaki Castle Park

Three-story Hirosaki, built in 1611, offers a number of ways to enjoy cherry blossoms in and around its walls and gardens: Here you’ll find more than 2,600 trees, petal-topped moats, boats for rental, and a bevy of picnic areas in this castle park in Japan’s Aomori Prefecture.

Best viewing: April 23-May 5

Himeji Castle (© Getty)

Himeji Castle

Just four hours west of Tokyo by train, Himeji Castle only reopened to the public in 2015 after years of renovations, but it’s quickly become a destination for cherry blossom viewing. Note that the castle—said to resemble a heron in flight—has cherry blossom trees in both its free (Senhimebotanen Garden; Sannomaru grounds) and paid areas (Nishnomaru grounds).

Best viewing: March 26–April 5

Yoyogi Park, Tokyo (© Getty)

Yoyogi Park, Tokyo

No matter the season, the 134-acre Yoyogi Park is one of our top things to do in Tokyo: Come springtime, the park bustles with performers and picnics, most gathered around the park’s more than 600 cherry trees. To enjoy them, put down a blanket of your own—but be sure not to take more space than you need, which is frowned upon.

Best viewing: Early April

Nakameguro, Tokyo (© Getty)

Nakameguro, Tokyo

We’ve called Nakameguro Tokyo’s best neighborhood for seeing cherry blossoms, and it continues to hold true, largely thanks to its canal-like waterway: Each spring, the more than 800 trees that line it come alive in brilliant pink. During the Nakameguro Sakura Festival, the trees are illuminated in the evening, and shops and restaurants sell cherry blossom-themed wares like pink champagne along the canal.

Best viewing: The festival runs from March 23–April 9.

Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokyo (© Getty)

Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokyo

Unlike some of the other parks on this list, 144-acre Shinjuku Gyoen doesn’t have free admission—it costs about $5. Yet that fee is more than worth it, as the park has more than 1,000 trees of more than a dozen varieties, which means lots of variety in blooming peaks. (Most people try to time their visit around the blossom of the 400 somei yoshino trees, near the park’s English garden.)

Best viewing: March 22–April 7

Kawazu, Shizuoka (© Getty)

Kawazu, Shizuoka

The 8,000 trees in Kawazu, on the east coast of the Izu Peninsula, are some of the earliest blooming in Japan, with pink and white petals appearing in early February and lasting for about a month. Our recommendation? Bundle up and walk the 2.5-length stretch of the Kawazu River that’s flanked by cherry trees.

Best viewing: Early February to early March

Maruyama Park, Kyoto (© Getty)

Maruyama Park, Kyoto

Maruyama Park is Kyoto’s oldest park, and one of the ancient capital’s most popular spots for cherry blossom viewing. And while it’s pleasant enough to stroll under the park’s cherry trees during daylight hours, most visit at night to see Maruyama’s famed shidarezakura (or weeping) tree, which is lit up during the blossom season.

Best viewing: April 23–May 6