AMONG JAPAN’S BELOVED SAKURA VIEWING SPOTS
While the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, Japan is slowly entering a new normal where, by adhering to basic safety measures, people may once again enjoy the everyday things they took for granted in the pre-coronavirus days. If this trend continues, we may even once again be able to fully enjoy the annual spring tradition of hanami — gathering around cherry trees in bloom and admiring their ephemeral beauty. Many places around the country vie for the title of Japan’s best cherry blossom-viewing spot, but the following four are definitely near the top of the list.
To protect yourself and those around you, please check the latest COVID-19 updates on local government websites before traveling.
① Goryokaku Park (Hakodate, Hokkaido)
Once a symbol of warfare, this star-shaped fortress has since been transformed from an artillery battery into a place of tranquility and beauty. Today, it’s mainly known for being covered by a carpet of pink cherry blossom petals each year. Visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the park from the adjacent Goryokaku Tower. (check website for availability).
Dates: Late April to early May
Access: Buses and trams departing from JR Hakodate Station or JR Goryokaku Station
② Miharu Takizakura (Miharu, Fukushima)
In an area as blessed with beautiful trees as Miharu, a cherry tree would really have to be something special to stand out. The Miharu Takizakura tree does precisely that. It’s considered one of three great cherry trees of Japan, and at over 1,000 years old, 13.5 meters high and as much as 25 meters wide, it’s so grand that it needs wooden supports to stand.
Dates: Early April to mid-April
Access: Taxis and buses from JR Koriyama Station and JR Miharu Station
③ Nara Park (Nara)
Nara’s deer aren’t the only noteworthy residents of Nara Park. The area is also home to nearly 1,300 cherry trees, which come in four main varieties: Higan cherry, wild cherry, Yoshino cherry and Nara yaezakura (double-flowered cherry). There are around 800 trees of that last variety in Nara Park, which can be found at the foothills of Mount Wakakusa.
Dates: Late March to early May
Access: Five-minute walk from Kintetsu-Nara Station or a 20-minute walk from JR Nara Station
④ Yanaka Cemetery (Tokyo)
A visit to admire the cherry trees at this spot will admittedly have to be a quiet, contemplative one, seeing as Yanaka’s Cherry Blossom Street runs through a cemetery. However, the serene atmosphere mixed with the breathtakingly beautiful sakura and the history of the area (including the grave of Japan’s last shogun) makes it more than worth a spot on this list.
Dates: Late March to early April
Access: 5-minute walk from Nippori Station