Every spring, Japan comes to life with pastel-hued blooms, drawing in crowds from all over the world. In fact, cherry blossom (sakura) season marks the most popular time to visit the diverse country.

Walk around Tokyo in spring, and you’ll see locals taking part in hanami, which is the act of viewing cherry blossoms. Some of the most popular spots include Ueno Park, Yoyogi Park and Yasukuni Shrine, where they enjoy a picnic at the park or host sakura viewing parties at night. However, if it’s your first time viewing cherry blossoms, you may want to choose to go to lesser-known spots — so you can fully immerse yourself in the experience without jostling through the hoards of tourists.

Get away from the crowds at these spots in Japan for a more zen setting for cherry blossom viewing.

(Photo credit: Shutterstock)

1
Mount Yoshino, Nara

The famed Mount Yoshino of Nara Prefecture has been one of Japan’s best cherry blossom viewing spot for centuries. Its history dates back to more than 1,300 years ago, when the first trees were planted along its slopes. Today, the mountain is covered by approximately 30,000 cherry trees of different varieties, most significantly the Yamazakura variety. For the most scenic view of the pastel-hued surroundings, head to the Hanayagura View Point, hidden about one hour on foot from the upper ropeway station.

Estimated date of first bloom in Nara: 27 March

Estimated date of full bloom in Nara: 8 April 

2
Sumida River Park, Tokyo

Sumida River Park, located only a few-minute walk from Asakusa Station, is home to big annual firework displays and cherry blossom viewing events in spring. The park is home to around 510 cherry trees, which can act as a canopy as you hanami under it. Alternatively, take the waterbus to enjoy the cherry blossoms from the river. At night, you can marvel at the majestic sight of illuminated trees, which makes for a completely different experience.

Estimated date of first bloom in Tokyo: 22 March

Estimated date of full bloom in Tokyo: 1 April 

3
Konkai-Komyoji Temple, Kyoto
Kyoto is undoubtedly one of the best Japanese cities to see cherry blossoms. One of most beautiful spots to hanami is the Konkai-Komyoji Temple. The 1,000-year old temple’s precinct boasts large cherry trees scattered amongst splendid wooden gate and buildings. As the temple sits atop a small hill, visitors are treated to jaw-dropping views down the streets, especially during sunset — when the cherry blossoms are bathed in the light of the setting sun.

Estimated date of first bloom in Kyoto: 25 March

Estimated date of full bloom in Kyoto: 2 April 

4
Showa Memorial Park, Tokyo

Showa Memorial Park, located a 25-minute ride from Shinjuku Station, is nestled in a large town in West Tokyo. The vast area is roughly 38 times the size of the Tokyo Dome and is divided into five different areas, the ForestZone, Water Zone and the Plaza Zone. While the park is popular all year for illuminations in winter and barbecue areas in the summer, it transforms into one of the most amazing cherry blossom viewing spots in all of Tokyo in spring; with the Cherry Blossom Garden boasting different varieties of over 1,500 cherry trees. Additionally, don’t miss the variety of vivid gold rape plants that contrast with the pink hues of the sakuras.

Estimated date of first bloom in Tokyo: 22 March

Estimated date of full bloom in Tokyo: 1 April 

5
Rikugien Gardens, Tokyo

One of Tokyo’s most famous gardens, Rikugien holds a light-up event twice every year — once in autumn to showcase the colours of the Japanese maple trees, and another during sakura season. A highlight of the garden are the weeping cherry trees flanking the main gate, as well as the Azalea bushes located along the shore. For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, head to the Tsutsuji no Chaya, a beautiful tea house viewpoint.

Estimated date of first bloom in Tokyo: 22 March 

Estimated date of full bloom in Tokyo: 1 April 

Dewi Nurjuwita
Senior Writer
Dewi Nurjuwita is a travel and design writer who can be found exploring the streets of foreign cities with passport in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.