The best places for cherry blossom viewing in Japan

Mitsuike Park, photo by Jun Takeuchi

In the same vein that people in New England like to watch the brilliant fall foliage in their state, in Japan watching the pink explosion of the blooming cherry trees in Spring is something that few people would miss. Hanami (literally flower viewing in Japanese) is the tradition of admiring the beauty of sakura (Japanese cherry trees) or plum trees that bloom for a few short weeks in May. Hanami doesn’t merely mean taking a walk in the park and throwing a look every now and then in the direction of the cherry trees. Hanami involves careful preparation: the employees of a company, groups or friends and families go early to the best places for cherry blossom viewing in Japan in order to secure a good spot, and then proceed to having an outdoor party with food and drink under the pinkish cloud of sakura flowers. Here are some spots where you can admire this typically Japanese wonder.

Ueno Park, Tokyo

Ueno Park, photo by japanese_craft_construction on Flickr

Ueno Park is one of the most crowded, noisy, bewildering and completely amazing parks in Tokyo, where you can get in touch with modern Tokyoite life like in no other place. Hanami is just as much about socializing as about admiring the falling cherry blossom petals, and in Ueno the parties take the lead. Also, in Ueno park hanami season begins slightly earlier than in other Tokyo hanami viewing destinations – which means that you can start with Ueno Park and then head to some other spot a few days later!

Mitsuike Park, Yokohama

Mitsuike Park is known for its three lovely lakes (the park’s name actually means ‘three lakes’), which are surrounded by hundreds of cherry trees. If you are in Yokohama in early April, then Mitsuike Park is not to be missed. Grab a blanket and some refreshments and join the thousands of locals who settle in Mitsuike to watch the pink wonder.

Maruyama Park, Kyoto

Maruyama Park, photo by Kimon Berlin

Maruyama Park is one of the most popular outdoor spots in Kyoto any time of the year, but in cherry blossom season it becomes a magnet for most people in the city and beyond. The star of the park is a huge weeping cherry tree which is lit up in the evening and looking downright magical. The park is full of food and drink stands, which makes is possible to spend the whole day among the cherry trees.

Yoshinoyama, Nara Prefecture

Yoshinoyama, or Mount Yoshino, has been one of the most spectacular cherry blossom viewing places in Japan for centuries. Some say that the countless cherry trees on the mountain have been planted more than a thousand years ago, and seeing how many trees there are, this is almost believable. The best thing about Yoshinoyama is that you can see cherry blossoms all April, as the ‘cherry blossom front’ moves up the mountain.

Kema Sakuranomiya Park, Osaka

Kema Sakuranomiya Park, photo by GanMed64

Osaka’s Okawa River is lined with no less and 5000 cherry trees which bloom in unison in early April. You can walk the river banks for kilometers and still be surrounded by cherry trees. There are pleasant green lawns where you can picnic, or you can book a slow boat trip on the river and see both banks at once.

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