One of the most popular time for people to visit Japan is during spring to see the cherry blossoms or Sakura. Across Japan there are many amazing Sakura locations, so we have reached out to fellow travel bloggers to put together this article to help you learn more about where you may wish to include in your itinerary.
This article includes where to see cherry blossoms in Japan from north to south, and includes both major and off the beaten track locations. Having just visited Japan for the most recent cherry blossom season, we can also comment that in addition to the major locations we also come across many lovely cherry blossoms spots throughout Japan during the cherry blossom season which are not on any maps!
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What is Sakura in Japan?
A common question from visitors is what is Sakura in Japan. Sakura are the cherry blossoms which bloom in spring on the deciduous cherry trees. The cherry blossoms are typically in full bloom for typically a one week period depending on the weather, and at different times across the country as the bloom sweeps from the south to the north.
In Japan the cherry blossoms are linked to the Buddhist concepts of human existence, which includes mortality and living in the present. In essence, a reminder that our lives are fleeting and we should focus on making the most of each moment in our lives.
What is Hanami in Japan?
Sakura Hanami is where family and friends in Japan meet to view the cherry blossoms together. Every park you visit is filled with picnic mats with people celebrating and having a lovely time together to celebrate the beginning of Spring.
Best Time to Visit Japan for Cherry Blossoms
The cherry blossoms bloom from south to north, and each year detailed Sakura Forecasts become available both in the news and online.
For planning purposes check out the Japan National Tourism Organisation cherry blossom map to see the last 10 years of information about when the cherry blossoms are likely to bloom. At the top is also the latest cherry blossom forecast each year which usually commences from January. Some years they are early and some years they are late so ensure you plan for these options when planning your itinerary.
How Long do Cherry Blossoms Last?
From first bloom it usually takes about one week to reach full bloom, and then full bloom typically lasts for around one week. In each location there are usually many different varieties of cherry blossom tree, some of which are early, mid and late blooming to cover a wider period. The main cherry blossom month in Japan is April.
For the major destinations here are the typical dates for the Sakura to bloom.
|Osaka, Kyoto, Nara
Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan
Below we have detailed some of the best cherry blossom spots in Japan to inspire your itinerary planning!
Hokkaido Cherry Blossom Season
Lotte Eschbach from the Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog has shared her recommendations on where the best places in Hokkaido to see the Hokkaido Sakura season.
Hokkaido is the northernmost island of Japan and the most beautiful one in my opinion. One of the less visited areas in Japan, it’s an island full of volcanoes, rugged mountains, green forests and even black bears it is an outdoor lovers paradise.
Hokkaido is on a ‘slightly’ different season schedule than the rest of Japan. Winter is long (Mid-October – April), spring is late May-June, summer is short (July-August) and autumn is early (September – Mid-October).
That means that while the cherry blossoms have already fallen in Kyoto, Tokyo and the rest of Honshu, petals are in full bloom on Hokkaido. While a bit different each year, on Hokkaido petals usually reach their peak just after Golden Week, so in early May.
One of the best places to view the blossoms is Matsumae Castle, a beautiful black three story castle in the Japanese style.
Matsumae Castle is one of the top 100 cherry blossom spots in Japan and it’s easy to see why. Around the castle you can find over ten thousand cherry trees from 250 different types of trees.
Because of the many varieties of trees the cherry blossom season at Matsumae Castle last for almost an entire month, as the different types of trees bloom at different times.
Matsumae Castle is a two hour drive from Hakodate. Another great cherry viewing spot in the south of Hokkaido is Goryokaku, a star shaped fort in Hakodate city.
Sapporo Cherry Blossom Season
Michelle Tan from The Travel Byte travel blog has shared her recommendations for the best places to see the cherry blossoms in Sapporo in Hokkaido.
Sapporo is the capital city of Hokkaido, the most northern island of Japan. Away from the well-trodden tourist route, Sapporo has an untouched natural beauty perfect for exploring.
Don’t miss out on the beautiful cherry blossom season in Sapporo in spring. With generally fewer crowds than the likes of Tokyo, you won’t have to battle to take picturesque shots. Cherry blossoms bloom here later than the rest of the country, which is great if you’ve missed out elsewhere. You can expect to see the full bloom from around late April to early May.
The best spots in Sapporo to experience cherry blossoms are Odori Park and Maruyama Park and Hokkaido Shrine, which are situated right next to each other. Odori Park is smack-bang in the middle of downtown Sapporo, so a convenient attraction to visit. Hokkaido is well known in Japan for its fresh produce and seafood, so don’t forget to grab a cob of corn from one of the many street vendors in Odori Park to eat as you admire the flowers.
Also, a wholesome lilac festival is held in Odori Park each year in May. Amongst the bloom of lilac flowers, there’s an outdoor tea ceremony and many activities for kids to enjoy.
Besides from stunning cherry blossoms, spring is a great season to check out Mount Moiwa in Sapporo. The Mount Moiwa Ropeway takes you to the summit of the mountain to enjoy beautiful views of the city. It’s a popular and romantic sightseeing spot especially in the evening, when the city lights up. One word of advice though is to rug up, as it gets super chilly at the top!
Sapporo is an amazing place to visit in any season, but after the frigid cold of winter, spring and its beautiful scenery is a welcome sight.
Sendai Cherry Blossom Season
Viola Wang from The Blessing Bucket travel blog shares her recommendations for visiting Sendai in the spring.
Sendai, nicknamed “the city of trees” is a charming midsized city located in Miyagi prefecture. Although only an hour and a half bullet train from Tokyo, this underrated gem is often overlooked by travellers. Sendai offers many exciting things to do all year round, but the best time to visit is arguably during spring. Besides cherry blossom viewing, which Sendai offers many stunning spots for, you cannot miss the famous Aoba Matsuri, or Aoba Festival.
Aoba Festival is a grand celebration that has 350 years of history. It takes place every May and the whole city is alive during this time. For a whole weekend, the streets are filled with music, festive floats, food stalls, and most importantly, dancers performing Suzume Odori. This is a traditional dance with origins from Sendai. Literally, it means “sparrow dance”. The name comes from movements that resemble sparrow picking food. Dancers perform intricate fan choreography while chanting with high energy.
During Aoba Festival, over a hundred Suzume Odori teams come out to show off their moves and colorful costumes. The parade is amazing to watch and the atmosphere is so infectious that you will inevitably start dancing and clapping along.
Excited to attend this spring festival? Check out this ultimate list of bucket list worthy things to do in Sendai for more inspirations for your visit.
Nikko Cherry Blossom
Anne Sutherland-Smith from the Pretraveller travel blog shares her recommendations for where to see cherry blossoms in Nikko, which is located north of Tokyo.
Nikko is an amazing location to see the cherry blossoms – they are everywhere! We visited across Nikko just after the cherry blossom peak, and really enjoyed seeing some of the late flowering cherry blossoms.
Some of our favourites were located inside the Edo Wonderland theme park, and we also loved seeing an ancient cherry blossom tree just near Toshogu Shrine.
Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo
The Tokyo Cherry Blossom season is one of the most popular! We really loved arriving in Tokyo earlier this year in the midst of the full bloom. There were cherry blossoms everywhere and we saw them in both some of the major parks as well as in other random places. One of my favourite experiences was sitting under some trees on the Sumida River by ourselves. It was very peaceful and great to be able to just enjoy the view by ourselves.
By comparison the major parks are very popular and filled with people, but they also have the best places to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo. Our favourites were Ueno Park and Sumida Park.
Asakusa, a Top Tokyo Sakura location
Alex Mergler from the Get Out With Kids travel blog shares his recommendations for where to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo by focusing on the Asakusa area.
Asakusa (浅草) is one of Tokyo’s districts that should be on every visitors list of things to do – especially in Spring! It is where an atmosphere of the Tokyo of past decades survives; where you can wander through the streets checking out traditional craft shops and street-food stalls. Asakusa is blessed with many attractions and festivals all year long with some of the best in Spring. We visited the ancient Sensō-ji temple on Hana-matsuri – Buddhas birthday – 8th April. The Sensō-ji temple, Tokyo’s oldest, is a Buddhist temple dedicated to Kannon Bosatsu, the Bodhisattva of compassion. It’s a popular spiritual site with over 30 million visitors annually! The shops along the street leading to the temple are part of a living tradition of selling to pilgrims who walked to Sensō-ji.
Asakusa is also full of restaurants and wonderful places to try traditional Japanese foods. One of the ones we tried was satsuma imo, sweet potatoes. Yum! Another special treat is chikuwa kamaboko, grilled fish cakes. You can also find Suzuhiro stores serving local craft beer with traditional kamaboko. Asakusa is also known for spices such as shichimi and sansho.
Wandering up and down the streets you will see many tourists dressed as geisha. That is because Asakusa is Tokyo’s oldest geisha district, and still has 45 actively working geisha. You can hire the clothing here by the hour and walk around the streets and temples enjoying the tradition and culture of this wonderful district in Tokyo.
Ueno Park Sakura Season
Nancy Canter from the We Go With Kids travel blog shares her experiences visiting Ueno Park, one of the best cherry blossom spots in Tokyo.
Ueno Park is a large public park located in central Tokyo. The grounds were originally part of the Kaneiji Temple, which was destroyed in the late 1800s, but luckily, the temple grounds were turned into a public park which is now home to one of Tokyo’s most popular cherry blossom viewing spot. There are more than 1000 cherry trees that line the central pathways of the park.
This is an ideal spring time destination as evidenced by the number of locals who stroll the grounds daily. During prime cherry blossom season, crowds can get heavy, so arrive early and throw down a blanket to save your sport. If time permits, be sure to walk across the bridge to the Shinobazu Pond, where there is usually some kind of traditional street food festival going on, especially in good weather and during festival season.
Kichijoji Cherry Blossom Season
Erika van’t Veld from the Erika’s Travelventures travel blog shares her off the beaten track recommendation to visit Kichijoji during the spring in conjunction with a visit to the Studio Ghibli Museum.
Kichijoji is an underrated neighbourhood located just to the West of central Tokyo, and the perfect place to visit during spring in Japan. It is an escape from the crowds and concrete jungle of central Tokyo, and is known among locals as being one of the most livable neighborhoods around Tokyo. Many tourists come to this area to visit the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, but don’t know about the beautiful Kichijoji area just next to it.
The most popular thing to do in Kichijoji is hang out at the Inokashira Park. There are sports fields, running and biking trails, lots of benches and picnic tables, and a few scattered restaurants. Attractions within the park include a small zoo, famous for its interactive squirrel exhibit, a Shinto shrine, and a lake where you can rent paddle boats or a swan boat. Beware, an urban legend says if you rent a boat to go on Inokashira Pond with your significant other, the relationship will soon come to an end!
Spring in Kichijoji is famous for the cherry blossom trees that hang over the pond like a canopy. The park is very crowded during this time, so go early in the morning if you want to save a spot for your picnic.
Between Inokashira Koen and the Kichijoji station is a local shopping street, filled with antique stores and boutique stores where you can find great quirky clothes and souvenirs. There are several nice cafes and restaurants where you can relax on the patio and people watch as well. Next spring in Japan, keep Kichijoji neighborhood on your to-go list!
Mt Fuji Sakura
Kawaguchiko Cherry Blossom Season
Anne Sutherland-Smith from the Pretraveller travel blog shares her experiences visiting Kawaguchiko during the cherry blossom season.
We had the great pleasure of visiting Kawaguchiko just at the end of the cherry blossom full bloom, along with absolutely perfect views over Mt Fuji. An iconic image is the view of Mt Fuji from the Chureito Pagoda, so we decided to get up early to view the sunrise. It was amazing and well worth the early start! As the hill is a lot higher than the local area the cherry blossoms start and finish later than the blooms around the lakeside.
There are cherry viewing locations everywhere around the five lakes, and if you get good weather you will really enjoy the experience!
Hakone Cherry Blossom Season
Katie Dundas from The Accidental Australian travel blog shares her recommendations for seeing Sakura in the Hakone area near Mt Fuji.
Hakone is one of the most spectacular places to visit in the spring. Home to the most famous viewpoints of Mt Fuji, this spa town is easy to reach on a day trip or weekend away from Tokyo.
Hakone is beautiful at any time of the year, but it is especially stunning in spring, thanks to the cherry blossoms. Top cherry blossom viewing spots include Onshi Park, Hakone Gora Park, and along the Miyagino Hayakawa riverbank. They can also be spotted alongside the shores of Lake Ashi- the perfect place to take what has become on the most iconic photographs of Japan- the snow-capped tip of Mt Fuji, framed by pink blooms.
All throughout the region, beautiful gardens and blooming flowers can be found, adding gorgeous colour to the hikes, temples, and parks of the region.
The springtime weather also makes it a great time to visit Hakone, as the days are not yet too hot for exploring and hiking, and the cool mornings and evenings are great for taking a dip in one of Hakone’s onsens, or Japanese hot springs. In early spring, you may even see snow flurries- there is nothing more relaxing or peaceful than soaking in an onsen and watching the snowfall!
No trip to Japan would be complete without a visit to Hakone, one of the most beautiful parts of the country.
Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival
Nicole LaBarge from the Travelgal travel blog shares her special recommendation for the Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival, one of the earliest options to see the cherry blossoms in the spring.
Kawazu is one of the best places to see the cherry blossoms in spring. Every year in February and March, the Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival is held in Kawazu City. Kawazu is located four hours south of Tokyo (or a two and a half hour train ride) in the Izu Pennisula.
This popular event attracts two million visitors a year and celebrates the flowering of the Kawazu Cherry Blossoms. It is known as Kawazuzakura and the Kawazu Cherry Trees are the earliest blossoming of cherry blossoms. This means the cherry trees blossom longer and you have about an extra month to see the cherry blossoms.
The city of Kawazu is very proud of their cherry trees which have a unique blossoming time compared to other Sakura (cherry trees). The blossom is extra large and a deep pink shade. Adding to the aesthetic is the fact that there are hundreds of trees planted along the river making for a beautiful stroll to see the blossoms.
The cherry trees follow the river for four kilometers and lead to the Kawazu Seven Waterfalls. The Seven Waterfalls are in the mountains with the tallest waterfall being 30 meters high. You can also see several statues around the area.
Nagano and Gifu Cherry Blossom Season
Matsumoto Cherry Blossom Season
Sylvia van Overvelt from the Wapiti Travel blog shares her recommendations for visiting Matsumoto during the spring.
Matsumoto is a little-explored city in Japan. Its main tourist attraction is the Samurai Castle, it is one of the few remaining original castles across whole Japan. What makes the structure truly unique is the third turret and the moon viewing platform which are added after the war. Most Japanese castles were burned down in wartime or by a moment’s inattention in the kitchen. This castle survived all this and started to serve more as a palace after the war.
Free guides are waiting for you at the entrance and are happy to share their stories about the warlike periods in Japan’s history and what life was like in these monumental castles.
Matsumoto is just a short trip from Tokyo by train. The first thing you will notice as you exit the train station is the more laid-back vibe. After several days in thrilling Tokyo it feels good to escape the haste and take a moment to relax.
With few other tourists around our experiences in Matsumoto felt more truly authentic Japanese. We had the best dinner and thought it was easier to connect with the Japanese. This was not something we had expected when we booked our stay in Matsumoto but in hindsight this is the main reason we do recommend to add Matsumoto to your Japan bucket list.
We visited Matsumoto in early April as the cherry blossoms began to bloom. If you plan your visit around Mid-April the castle grounds will be extra cheerful thanks to the beautiful cherry blossoms.
Shirakawa-go in Spring
Noel Morata from the Travel Photo Discovery blog has shared his recommendations for visiting Shirakawa-go during spring.
Visiting Japan in Springtime is magical especially when all the spring wildflowers and even Sakura starts to take off. Springtime in the Japanese Alps especially around the mountain communities of Shirikawa-go don’t really get started until snow melts towards the end of May and the real spring starts to warm up in June timeframe.
What you’ll get to explore getting off the bus line to the village is a real slice of Alpine life in the Japanese Alps with these authentic and thick grass houses called Gasso Zukuri that are common in the Gifu prefecture area. The area has an authentic traditional style village that is also certified as a UNESCO World Heritage site and you really get a sense of place exploring the village and surrounding areas. Wonderful trails wrap around the village with amazing panoramic views of the entire village and mountain regions.
This part of Japan really exudes authentic lifestyle and way of life that is unique from the rest of Japan. Check out our post about visiting the Japanese Alps here for more inspiration about planning and visiting this wonderful region of Japan.
Kanazawa Cherry Blossom Season
Leah Smileski from the Kid Bucket List travel blog shares her recommendations for visiting Kanazawa in spring.
Famous for its well preserved Edo-era districts, Kanazawa is often referred to as “Little Kyoto” for its mix of historic and cultural sights and attractions. It’s also renowned for its gold products and is today noted for its incredible handicrafts. It is an easy city to navigate with a well structured public transportation system that is well suited to both the first time and experienced travellers.
Whilst Kanazawa is an amazing destination across the year, it is during springtime that it truly comes to life and certainly needs to be on your Japan Bucket List. But what are the best places to visit?
Kenroku-en Garden is reputed to be one of the top three gardens in all of Japan. During springtime it is one of the most dazzling places to head for its magnificent cherry blossoms. The garden boasts over 420 individual cherry trees across 20 varieties, including the rare Sphaerantha which has quite a unique shape and colours that change across the season. It is free to visit too which is an added bonus.
Nearby you will find Kanazawa Castle. Originally built in 1583, the castle has burned to the ground a number of times and is now a largely reconstructed site. During cherry blossom season, the castles 400 cherry trees blossom in a colourful burst of colour. They can also be viewed at night with lights adorning the trees from the middle of April.
If you are looking for a little more history whilst visiting Kanazawa you must visit the Higashi Chaya Area which is the original Geisha district. You can wander the laneways and explore the exquisitely preserved Tea Houses whilst also viewing handcrafts. It is here that you can sample Gold Leaf icecream. Yes, you can really eat gold! Another spot to make sure you visit is the Nagamachi Samurai House area where you can visit a few original Samurai Houses and perhaps stop for a rest.
If you love art, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art is a must-do, even the kids will love it. It’s almost out of place in Kanazawa, a city that is all about the history, but somehow fits. One of the most noted exhibits is Swimming Pool by Leandro Erlich. Here people appear to be underwater, a perfect instagrammable shot!
Omicho Market is your answer to fresh produce in Kanazawa. Lying very close to the Sea of Japan lends itself to being quite close to the fishing industry so watch out for some curiosities from the ocean.
Kanazawa is quite easy to get around with a loop bus running throughout the day at regular 15 minutes intervals. Tourists can purchase a one day pass for 500 yen (children 250 yen). Kanazawa is accessible via Shinkansen and bus from Tokyo.
Kyoto Cherry Blossom Season
Kyoto’s cherry blossom season is rightly famous with so many different places to view the Sakura. Below we have some great information about different areas of Kyoto to enjoy the blooms!
Central Kyoto Sakura Season
Kenny Chow from the Knycx Journeying travel blog shares his recommended places to visit for the Kyoto Sakura season.
The city center of Kyoto is a cluster of historic and heritage sites, making it one of the best places in the world to experience Japanese culture and tradition. Furthermore, the seasons in Japan is enchanting – from the blossoming in spring, fireworks in summer, foliage in autumn and snow in winter; To me, the temples and palaces look picturesque when they are framed by the pink and white cherry blossom between late March and early April.
Cherry blossoms in Kyoto are everywhere in the city, thanks to their outstanding city-planning. No matter you are a tourist or a local, I recommend having a stroll through these sites in a kimono, or a traditional Japanese costume. Places like Honen-in, Gojo-zaka, Kiyomizu Temple, Yasaka Shrine and Maruyama Park are connected by narrow alleys which are filled with old tea houses, souvenir stores, or restaurants.
If you want to venture to farther places, hop on a traditional rickshaw or a local bus to the Philosopher’s Path, Ginkaku-ji, Kinkaku-ji, or Hanami Koji Street. Each of these places has its own unique architecture, scenery or settings that create unforgettable pictures together with cherry blossoms and landmarks. Lastly, don’t forget to taste Yudofu, matcha ice-cream, udon, and many other delicacies after a day of photo-taking in the Kyoto city center.
Arashiyama, One of the Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto
Melissa Delaware from the Thrifty Family Travels blog shares her recommended places to visit for the Kyoto Sakura season.
Located on the western outskirts of Kyoto, Arashiyama is a lovely place for tourists to visit any time of the year but even more so in Spring. The area is filled with cherry blossoms in full bloom, shrines, temples and plenty of tourist shops, restaurants as well as lovely walks.
In my view, the most beautiful area of Arashiyama is by the river. Here you will see the old Togetsukyo Bridge which crosses the wide Katsura River and is surrounded by the beautiful mountains. If you happen to be in Arashiyama while the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, this area is even more beautiful, with thousands of pink cherry blossom trees lining the river.
A great to enjoy the river and the cherry blossoms is by taking a boat tour or even just sitting in one of the cafes and admiring the gorgeous views. You could also take the Sagano Romantic Train which takes you through some of the beautiful landscapes of Arashiyama.
For those wanting something a little more active climb the hill to the Monkey Park where you will be greeted by hundreds of friendly, but wild monkeys that roam free. From here you will also have a great view across Arashiyama. For those less active, take a leisurely stroll through the Bamboo Groves or take a ride in a traditional Japanese rickshaw – one of the few places you still can in Japan.
Other things to do in Arashiyama include visiting temples such as Tenryuji, Adashino Nembutsu-ji, Gio-ji, Jojakkoji and seeing the old machiya houses in Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street.
Osaka Cherry Blossom Season
You may not realise that Osaka also has some great cherry blossom viewing spots, check out the recommended options below.
Osaka Castle Sakura
Alex Waltner from the Swedish Nomad travel blog shares his recommended places to visit in Osaka for the cherry blossom season.
Osaka is a lovely city to visit in the Japanese spring as it comes back to life after the winter. The cherry blossom is spectacular, especially around the historical Osaka Castle which has some impressive sakura trees where you can admire the pink flowers and learn more about Japanese history at the same time.
The Osaka Castle Park is a wonderful place to see the cherry blossom, an activity also known locally as Hanami. There are more than 4000 cherry trees planted in the Osaka Castle Park, and one of the nicest places to go for a spring picnic is perhaps by the western citadel in Nishinomaru park.
The nearby premises of the Osaka Mint Bureau is another spectacular site for Hanami, and there are more than 300 cherry trees of different varieties. It’s usually only possible to view the garden on a visit to the Mint Museum, but in mid-April, it opens up to the public for one week during peak blossom.
In addition to cherry blossom, there are also lots of other things to do in the Osaka Castle area. The best thing is, of course, to walk inside the castle museum and see the display of old armor, weapons, and other historical artifacts.
Minoo Park near Osaka
Katie Zweber from the Two Wandering Soles travel blog has shared her recommended off the beaten track Osaka Sakura spot as Minoo Park, a short train ride from Osaka.
Swap Osaka’s neon lights and towering skyscrapers for lush mountains, a babbling river, and a spectacular waterfall, without even leaving the city limits! Minoo Park is a perfect place to escape the madness of the city and get into nature without having to go too far.
Situated just outside of Osaka’s city center, Minoo Park is a popular spot for local families to visit on the weekends but isn’t all that well-known by foreign travelers. Just a 45-minute train ride from downtown, it is a fun day trip that’ll make you swear you’ve been transported far outside Osaka instead of a short ride away. Spring in Japan means the sakura trees in Minoo Park – like many other spots around the country – become heavy with blossoms and the crisp fresh air is a welcomed treat.
Follow the well-maintained path that follows the river gorge. After an easy 45-minute walk, you’ll see Minoo Falls, a picturesque waterfall flanked by a small red footbridge. If you’ve worked up a sweat, get up close to the waterfall’s mist for a refreshing way to cool down. And if you’ve worked up an appetite, you’ll find plenty of options at the small stands selling snacks like dango and grilled meats. Be sure to taste the deep-fried maple leaves, which can only be found within this park!
Nara Cherry Blossom Season
Michael Turtle from the Time Travel Turtle travel blog shares his recommendations for visiting Nara during the cherry blossom season.
While Kyoto gets a lot of the attention during cherry blossom season, I actually think it’s nearby Nara that is much prettier. You’ll see the sakura throughout the whole city and they bring even more colour to the beautiful historic centre.
Nara was the capital of Imperial Japan in the 8th century for just 74 years and so you’ll find the magnificent buildings you would expect from the seat of power, without the large-scale development. It’s easy to get around the city and I would suggest focusing your time on the seven spots that have been designated as a World Heritage Site because they offer the best things to do in Nara.
The most impressive is the Todai-ji Temple, which was once of the largest wooden building in the world. Inside is an enormous brass Buddha statue that towers over everything else.
The Yakushi-ji Temple and the Kofuku-ji Temple are also both beautiful complexes and deserve a bit of time. But my favourite is the Kasuga Grand Shrine. You’ll reach it by walking up a hill through a primeval cedar forest and, inside, you’ll see the balance with the nature that flows through the shrine.
Nara has also become well-known for the deer that live around the temples but they can get a bit violent if you have food, so they are best avoided. Instead, wander the streets of the city to find authentic restaurants and tea houses without the crowds of Kyoto (even though it’s still quite busy – most people come as day trips, so you’ll find it very pleasant in the evenings).
Mt Koyasan Cherry Blossom Season
Annie Robinson from the Off Goes Annie travel blog shares her recommendations for visiting Mt Koyasan during the spring cherry blossom season.
Koyasan is one of the most special places to visit in Japan. Forming the cultural heart of Japanese Buddhism as a major pilgrimage site of 100 temples, a trip to Mount Koya is a must do adventure during any visit to Japan. Spring time sees this small town in full bloom, making the juxtaposition of pale pink blossom and bright vermillion temples even more impressive.
Visit Koyasan to fully immerse yourself in rural Japanese and religious culture. There are no hotels anywhere in the town, so instead you get the opportunity to stay at one of the practicing monasteries. Enjoy an afternoon of exploring the phenomenally tranquil shrines, before enjoying a dip in one of the many natural hot spring onsen. The following morning, many of the monasteries allow guests to observe the daily prayer ceremony.
Accessible from Osaka, Kyoto or Nara, the voyage to the top of Mount Koya is all part of the experience. First, board a train to Hashimoto, via Oji for those using a JR Pass. You’ll then need to buy a separate local ticket to take you on the wonderfully scenic train to Gokurakubashi, where you’ll board an incredibly steep funicular railway to the summit. Finish off the journey with a bus into the centre of this small town – walking the windy road into town is not permitted.
Kinosaki Onsen Cherry Blossom Season
Erin McNeaney from the Never Ending Voyage travel blog shares her recommendations for visiting Kinosaki Onsen during the cherry blossom season.
Kinosaki Onsen is a wonderful off-the-beaten path destination that’s especially lovely in spring.
This small hot spring resort town is just 2.5 hours by train from Kyoto or Osaka but is much less crowded. In early April the cherry trees are in bloom along the pretty canals and you can enjoy the blossoms without fighting crowds.
Soaking in an onsen (hot spring) is a unique Japanese experience and in Kinosaki Onsen there are seven public onsen, which are all included in the free pass you get with your accommodation.
For the classic experience stay in a ryokan (traditional inn) where you sleep on a futon and enjoy delicious multi-course meals served in your tatami mat room. We loved Morizuya Ryokan which has a private onsen available at certain times for mixed gender use. This is ideal if you are travelling with family or a partner of the opposite sex or just want some practice before you head to the public baths.
After putting on the provided yukata (cotton kimono) and geta (wooden sandals), you head out into the streets to hop from one onsen to another and soak in the steaming waters.
You’ll need to be aware of onsen etiquette (you must be completely naked and shower thoroughly before getting in the bath), but once you get over any initial apprehension, it’s a very relaxing experience. Some of the onsen have multiple baths (and even saunas) to enjoy and many have garden views.
Miyajima Island Cherry Blossom Season
Toni Broome from the 2 Aussie Travellers travel blog shares her recommendations for visiting Miyajima Island during the cherry blossom season.
Miyajima, also known as Itsukushima is a great choice to include in your spring itinerary. It is an island located in the Seto Inland Sea and only around 20 km from the city of Hiroshima.
As a destination it is best known for the giant torii gate at the entrance to the bay that appears to float at high tide. It’s rated of one of the three top scenic views in Japan and it is impressive to see. Torii gates stand at the entrance to Shinto Shrines and divide the sacred space from the everyday world. This one stands symbolically out in the water because Miyajima is a shrine island. The main shrine is also built on raised supports within the bay and seeing that ‘floating’ can be even more dramatic. It is worth timing your visit to be at this part of the island at high tide to see it at its best.
Miyajima is also known for the tame deer that wander around. You’ll see them everywhere from the ferry stop to the very top of the highest mountain on the island. During the springtime many of them will have babies with them and they are very inquisitive.
There are several other things to do on the island. We recommend heading to the top of Mt Misen, you can hike up if you have a couple of hours but you can also take the ropeway which will get you to a viewing platform around the half way point. I suggest continuing all the way up to see the temples, great views and interesting rock formations along the way. You should also explore the covered shopping street near the shrine where you will find some great restaurants and snack food options.
You can stay overnight on Miyajima but it’s also suitable to visit on a day trip from Hiroshima, Kyoto or Osaka.
Yakushima Island in Spring
Steve Rohan from The Trip Goes On travel blog shares his recommendations to travel off the beaten track to Yakushima Island, which is located between Nagasaki and Okinawa.
The tiny island of Yakushima is an excellent destination at any time year, but during spring the place comes alive as new shoots burst through the forest floors. As Yakushima is dominated by evergreen woodland, spring is a more colourful time of year than autumn/fall. Plants such as rhododendrons, fuchsia, camellia and of course cherry blossoms spring forth in an explosion of colour across the island.
Although the island is small, you could spend months here without getting bored. It’s possible to swim, snorkel and dive off Yakushima in spring, though a wetsuit might be necessary. You can hire equipment in the towns of Isso and Miyanoura. Both sea and river kayaking are also year-round pursuits and an excellent way to explore the island.
Yakushima is famed for its many hiking trails which range in difficulty from easy to strenuous. There are plenty of day-hike options available, but why not camp out in one of the mountain huts in the interior?
Be sure to take a hike into the ancient forests of the interior to see some of the oldest trees in the world, like Jomon Sogi; a Yaku Sugi tree believed to be up to 7,200 years old!
If you prefer using two wheels to two feet, then you can hire a bike and circumnavigate the island in a day.
Yakushima is dotted with hot springs, known in Japan as onsens. From the natural Hirauchi, Oura and Yudomari beachside locations to the more luxurious hotel onsens like that at the JR Hotel, you will be sure to find the perfect place to relax after a day’s hiking.
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Anne Sutherland-Smith is the creative force behind Pretraveller.com, a travel blog that specializes in offering insightful guidance for exploring Japan, South Korea, Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Her passion for these diverse and dynamic regions shines through in her expert advice, particularly in helping travellers stay connected with the latest in SIM cards, pocket WiFi, and eSIMs.
With an unquenchable thirst for Asian and Oceanian cultures, Anne has carved out a niche as a knowledgeable guide for those venturing into the bustling streets of Tokyo, the historical alleys of Kyoto, the vibrant scenes of Seoul, the scenic landscapes of Australia, the vibrant markets of Hong Kong, or the futuristic cityscape of Singapore. Her articles are full of practical tips and detailed information, ensuring travellers are well-equipped for their journeys.
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