Wondering where to see cherry blossoms during the Japan sakura season in 2020? Instead of following the tourist crowds in Tokyo or Kyoto, why not be adventurous and discover some lesser-known destinations? From ancient samurai towns to petal-filled castle moats, we’ll reveal five must-see sakura spots that are off the tourist trail.
Where to see Japan’s cherry blossoms without the crowds?
Japan sakura season is one of the most popular events in spring. Tourists flock to see the blooming of pink cherry blossoms and to join in the lively sakura festivals across the country. Instead of following the crowds to Tokyo or Kyoto, how about exploring some lesser-known destinations to see Japan’s cherry blossoms?
1. Hirosaki Park
When to go: Late April
How to get there: Take a flight from Singapore to Tokyo. From Tokyo, take the Tohoku Shinkansen to Shin-Aomori Station, then hop on a local train to Hirosaki. The total train travel time is around 4.5 hours.
Tucked away in the northern part of Honshu island, Hirosaki Park is one of the best spots to see cherry blossoms during Japan’s sakura season. Boasting over 2,500 cherry trees, a majestic castle and fortified moats, it’s no wonder that so many locals flock to this stunning park for its annual cherry blossom festival. In late April, and sometimes up to early May, the park is wreathed in gorgeous pink-and-white blossoms, and the castle moats are strewn with petals. Amidst this picture-perfect scenery, you can picnic under some of the oldest cherry trees in Japan, rent a boat, or walk through mesmerizing sakura tunnels. During the festival, Hirosaki Park is illuminated nightly, so don’t miss this utterly magical experience.
When to go: Late April to early May
How to get there: Fly from Singapore to Sapporo. Then, catch a 45-minute domestic flight from Sapporo to Hakodate.
If you’re looking for a unique spot to see sakura in Japan, head to Hakodate, which is located on the remote island of Hokkaido. Hakodate’s main attraction is the Goryokaku, a star-shaped fort from the 19th century that has since been converted into a park. With more than 1,600 Yoshino cherry trees lining its moats, Goryokaku is a spectacular spot for cherry blossom viewing in spring. While you admire the stunning canopies of pink blossoms, it’s also the perfect opportunity to enjoy an outdoor barbecue and try jingisukan, a delicious grilled mutton dish that is very popular in Hokkaido.
When to go: Mid to late April
How to get there: Take the Akita Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kakunodate Station. The total travel time is around 3 hours.
Step back into Japan’s samurai past when you travel to the ancient town of Kakunodate, which also happens to host a very popular Japan cherry blossom festival. Kakunodate’s rich historical charm and magnificent cherry blossoms make it a must-see destination during sakura season.
Although the whole town will be ablaze in pink, there are two viewing spots you can’t miss. Head to the samurai district, where rows of weeping cherry trees and perfectly preserved samurai houses form a perfect tableau. You can also indulge in a blissful stroll along the banks of Hinokinai River, and admire the archway of delicate blossoms hanging overhead. With hundreds of cherry trees bursting into bloom, it’s truly a sakura wonderland.
When to go: Early April
How to get there: Catch a domestic flight to Sendai from Osaka (1h 10m) or Tokyo (1h 5m).
Sendai is a great option for those seeking to enjoy the Japan sakura season without the hordes of tourists. This vibrant city often gets overlooked, but as the gateway to the breathtaking Tohoku region, Sendai is well worth the detour. Don’t miss the Mikamine and Tsutsujigaoka parks, where you’ll find gorgeous cherry blossoms, colourful paper lanterns and plenty of tantalizing food stalls.
Another must-see sakura spot is Shiogama Shrine, which is about a 30-minute train ride from Sendai. This ancient shrine is home to over 30 varieties of cherry trees, including the unique Shiogama Cherry, so you can get your dose of culture while immersing yourself in a paradise of pink blossoms.
When to go: Early April
How to get there: Take the Kyushu Shinkansen from Fukuoka to Kagoshima. The travel time is around 2.5 hours.
The lovely seaside city of Kagoshima is an ideal place to visit during Japan’s sakura season. The top sakura spot in Kagoshima is Yoshino Park, where hundreds of cherry trees unfurl their pale pink petals in springtime. With the majestic Sakurajima Volcano forming an idyllic backdrop to the park, you’re guaranteed to snap some stunning pictures. While you’re in Yoshino, make sure you explore the quirky food stalls. It’s your chance to sample delectable Japanese street food, as well as shochu – Kagoshima’s famous distilled liquor made from rice and sweet potatoes.
Originally published in March 2017 and updated in February 2020. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.