Where to see cherry blossoms in Japan this sakura season

Updated on February 26 2018

To say Japan is a beautiful country is an understatement. It is home to a variety of jaw-dropping landscapes, from snow-powdered mountains to glistening lakes, after all. However, the country is even more breathtaking come cherry blossom season, when its landscapes are awash with reds, pinks and yellows.

In fact, cherry blossoms (or sakura) are one of the iconic symbols of Japan — and drives hundreds of tourists to the Land of the Rising Sun each year. It is no wonder, then, that the Japanese take cherry-blossom viewing very seriously — evident by a special Japanese word, hanami, which often involves a picnic party underneath cherry blossoms.

For those planning a trip to Japan during cherry blossom season, it may be hard to decide exactly when to go — especially with a limited number of leave days. However, picking a date has been made easier with the help of the Japan Meteorological Corporation, which has a forecast that predicts exactly when and where to hanami in 2018. We’re certain you don’t want to plan a week-long trip to Japan only to find out you’ve narrowly missed blossoming season.

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And what better way to bask in the ultimate cherry blossom experience in Japan than to stay in unique and authentically Japanese properties? Enter: HomeAway, a vacation rental marketplace, which connects property owners with travellers who seek the space, value and amenities of holiday homes.

So without further ado, check out the best destinations to view cherry blossoms, the perfect time to go, and some of the most beautiful properties listed on HomeAway where you should stay.

Hokkaido 

Hokkaido, the northernmost island in Japan, is known to have some of the most beautiful cherry blossoms — due to the fact that since the prefecture is the last to warm up in spring, the cherry blossoms bloom after enduring a long winter.

Cherry blossoms in Hokkaido.

One of the most scenic parks in Hokkaido, Nakajima, is home to serene walking trails, historical buildings, a vast pond, and a variety of plants, which include different varieties of cherry trees — such as the double-flowered cherry, sargent cherry, and weeping cherry.

If you prefer admiring red and white plum blossoms (which coincides with cherry blossom season), check out Hiraoka Park — which also functions as a habitat for numerous wild birds including the great spotted woodpecker and insects such as Anotogaster Sieboldii (Oniyanma dragonfly).

When it starts: 3 May 2018

Where to stay 

Zekkei chalet.

This luxurious chalet in the secluded Hirafu village is called the Zekkei chalet, which means “the absolute view.” Set over three floors, the chalet is well known in Niseko for its unbeatable views of the magnificent Mt. Yotei and terraced rice paddy fields. During sakura season, its floor-to-ceiling windows will treat you to awe-inspiring views of cherry blossoms. What more could you ask for?

For more info, you can view the property here

Tokyo

Japan’s capital, Tokyo, is a vibrant metropolis known for its hectic intersections (think the world-famous Shibuya crossing), amazing shopping and picture-perfect sushi rolls. It is also one of the best destinations in Japan for cherry blossom viewing. In fact, the city has one of the earliest blooming dates among the other parts of Japan.

Beautiful yozakura light-up set against the Tokyo Tower.

However, if you miss the main hanami season by a week or two, don’t fret. Shinjuku Gyoen, one of Tokyo’s largest parks, is another great sakura-viewing spot which features more than one thousand cherry trees of over a dozen varieties — including numerous early and late-blooming trees. The park’s spacious lawns and meandering walking paths make for a calm and peaceful spot to hanami. 

When it starts: 20 March 2018

Where to stay

A light-filled penthouse in Tokyo.

To appreciate the cherry blossoms and Shinjuku Gyoen, and explore everything else Tokyo has to offer, this chic penthouse located in Yoyogi and Shinjuku makes for the perfect retreat within proximity to Tokyo’s best spots. The light-filled modern apartment is located on the 10th floor, complete with a terrace that treats guests to city views.

For more info, you can view the property here

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Kyoto

From lush parks to ancient shrines, Kyoto has a variety of spots for hanami parties. One of these is Maruyama-koen Park, which is among the most popular venues in the prefecture. The park is home to a tall shidarezakura (weeping cherry tree), which is lit up at night — making for the perfect yozakura spot.

Alternatively, another spot favoured by both tourists and locals alike is The Path of Philosophy (Tetsugaku-no-Michi), which boasts an entire path lined with cherry trees — a beautiful sight when in bloom.

For those who prefer somewhere quieter, head to Kamigamo-jinja, the oldest shrine in Kyoto. The UNESCO-listed site is cloaked in beautiful woods and a spectacular array of multi-coloured cherry blossoms — some of which are very rare and distinctive.

When it starts: 27 March 2018

Where to stay

A200-year-old house in Kyoto.

Your trip to Kyoto won’t be complete without staying in a traditional thatched house, such as this 200-year-old gem in Keihoku, a mountainous area just outside of Kyoto. The house, with impressive architecture made of wood and natural materials, is bedecked in traditional Japanese art — so you can fully immerse yourself in Japanese culture during your stay.

For more info, you can view the property here

Okayama

The Okayama Prefecture boasts great spots to view cherry blossoms and is one of the best places to enjoy this essential Japanese tradition set against the backdrop of beautiful townscapes.

Handayama Botanical Garden is located on a hill overlooking the town of Okayama. There are about 800 Yoshino cherry trees in the park, and the whole mountain is bathed in shades of pink when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.

Asahi River Sakura Road.

Asahi River Sakura Road is a cherry tree-lined street that stretches about 1.3 kilometres along the Asahi River on the east side of Okayama Korakuen Garden. The road is home to about 200 cherry trees and sees both tourists and locals alike barbecuing while participating in hanami every spring.

When it starts: 28 March 2018

Where to stay 

Traditional inn in the Japanese countryside.

Stay in a traditional Japanese-style inn in the countryside in Okayama. The building dates back to over 120 years and is carefully preserved, including its cedar flooring. Additionally, the accommodation is also within proximity to a number of hot springs — so you can kick back and indulge in one of Japan’s favourite past times.

For more info, you can view the property here