Your Need-to-Knows for the Three Great Cherry Blossom Areas of Japan
Though the number of sakura (“cherry blossom”) spots in Japan runs up into the four digits, we’re going to narrow our focus down to the top three destinations that truly shine among them and take a look at what makes them special. Knowing a little about what sets these places apart before your visit will definitely add to your appreciation of them.
1. Takatō Castle Site Park
高遠城址公園, Nagano—peak time: mid-April
Located at the site where Takatō Castle once stood, this park is home to over 1,500 cherry trees of the “takatō-kohigan-zakura” variety, which are said to bloom only here. Unlike the more common Yoshino cherry, which turns almost white when at full bloom, this species has smaller petals, richer red hues, and more vivid coloration. Even at full bloom, this type of sakura retains its pink color. Throughout history, it has been named as “the most beautiful cherry beneath the heavens,” so be sure to compare it with the Yoshino cherry for yourself!
Below Ōun-kyō, http://www.pixpot.net
In addition, the park is famed for Ōun-kyō more than anything else. You’ll actually get two different flavors of the scenery if you look at it from both above and below.
2. Mount Yoshino
吉野山, Nara—peak time: throughout April
What makes Mount Yoshino different from the rest is its sheer, incredible scale. Come spring, the area is riotously abloom with 30,000 sakura of 200 different types, though Japanese white hill cherry (shiroyama-zakura) dominate. The entire mountain transforms into a landscape of blossoming cherry trees. A full rank above any other place you might go, the grandeur of the sight alone will fill you with awe.
In terms of position and location, the trees are concentrated into lower, mid, upper, and inner sections, which are called “hitome-sembon” because even at a glance (“hitome”) you’re able to see a thousand (“sembon”) sakura. The time of flowering varies between the sections, with trees blooming earliest to latest in the order shimo (“lower”) sembon, naka (“mid”) sembon, kami (“upper”) sembon, and oku (“inner”) sembon. Thanks to this, you have that much more time to enjoy the flowers here.
The Yoshino area also has World Heritage Sites like Kinpusen-ji and Yoshimizu Shrine (both in the naka sembon area) that we recommend you check out when you come for the cherry blossoms.
3. Hirosaki Park
弘前公園, Aomori—peak time: late April to early May
Located in the northern Tōhoku region of Japan, the sakura of Hirosaki Park bloom about a month later than those in Tokyo. Full bloom happens just around the time of the Golden Week holidays in Japan, so it’s a perfect destination for anyone who was too busy with work to go for hanami (“flower viewing”).
At 49 hectares (121 acres), the park is quite spacious, and around 2,600 cherry trees flower here in the mid-spring. It’s said that the Yoshino cherries that bloom here were donated in 1882, which just might make them the oldest of their species in all of Japan. Sakura of the Yoshino cherry species generally live about sixty to eighty years, but there are over 300 here that are at least a century old, and many experts praise the park for having the best landscape management techniques in Japan.
If you get out to Hirosaki Park, be sure to make a stop at Hirosaki Castle as well, as there you’ll find the only keep tower in all of Tōhoku that still remains from the Edo period. A picture speaks a thousand words, so if you look at the photo you’ll understand just how lovely a sight it is.
Sakura reflected in the river at night, http://blueforesttiger.blog54.fc2.com/
Hirosaki Castle is also included in the Three Great Night Cherry Blossom spots in Japan, and the area is highly famed for its sakura in the evening, with darkness only adding to the allure of the scenery. Every year from April 23 to May 5 (dates changing depending on the condition of the flowers themselves) the area hosts the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival, bringing sakura pink to the streets of the town.
How about it? Think this’ll come in useful for your travels in the future? The areas are quite spread out across Japan, but if you have to pick just one, we recommend Hirosaki Park.
Related: Other sakura articles