Japan's Best Places for Cherry Blossoms

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When much of North America remains buried under ice and snow, the first Japanese cherry blossoms are already unveiling their frothy pink petals on the island of Okinawa. Here, cherry blossom season begins in late January, as 20,000 Ryukyu-higan-zakura trees bloom around the remains of Nago Castle, in the centre of the island.

For the rest of the country, blooms peak in springtime between early March and late April, depending on the variety of the tree.

Our Japanese guides will see the most tour bookings all year in the coming 2 months, as travellers are eager to experience hanami, Japan's spectacular cherry blossom season. People from all over the world can join in the traditional Japanese custom of hanami, by visiting mountains and parks with cherry blossoms, walking through the pink tunnels formed by arching boughs, and holding sake-drinking parties beneath the cherry trees in full blossom.

Wondering where the best cherry blossom viewing spots are? Here are five favourites locals around the country love:

Best Places for Cherry Blossoms in Japan

Ueno Park, Tokyo
From late March to late April, residents and visitors linger under the canopies of over 1000 cherry trees in this central Tokyo park. The trees are illuminated in the evening. (See Tokyo tours.)

Nagoya Castle, Aichi
Nagoya Castle is considered one of Japan's greatest castles, and the castle grounds are at their most beautiful in late March and early April, when many varieties of trees are in bloom around the pleasant park and along the moats of the castle. (See Hakodate tours.)

Daigo-ji Temple, Kyoto
In the spring of 1598, 700 weeping cherry trees were planted around a beautifully-landscaped garden at Daigo-ji in southeast Kyoto. Since that time, hanami parties have been held at this UNESCO-listed site every year, to celebrate the beauty of the blossoms. (See Kyoto tours.)

Mt Yoshina, Nara
Many consider Mt Yoshina to be the best spot in all of Japan for cherry blossom viewing. Cherry seedlings have been planted here for centuries, resulting in a profusion of blooms from 30,000 trees that span the mountainside from bottom to top. Viewing season is from early to late April.
(See Nara tours.)

Hakodate City, Hokkaido
If you're a little late to the party but still want to see blossoms, head to Goryokaku Fort Park in Hakodate City, Hokkaido, where cherry and plum trees blossom from late April to early May. (See Hakodate tours.)

We've told you about a few of the most popular cherry blossom viewing spots here, but your Japanese guide will be able to supplement that knowledge with the out-of-the-way, quiet spots where you can wander away from the crowds. If you're headed to Japan this spring and haven't booked your tour yet, do it quickly to avoid disappointment: the guides' schedules are filling up quickly!
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