Sakura Forecast 2021: 5 recommended spots in Japan
Another year has come and gone, and another cherry blossom (桜 sakura) season is upon us! This year, the sakura flowers are forecast to bloom slightly earlier than the previous year, with several locations having their peak bloom dates pushed forward a few days.
With a few notable exceptions, cherry blossoms tend to begin blooming in the south, working their way up north as time passes. (Image credit: JR Times)
The handy infographic above represents a general overview of the estimated date of blossom for the different regions around Japan. At the time of writing, there are no rules or restrictions imposed on hanami (花見 flower-viewing) parties throughout the nation.
However, it is very likely that most large-scale festivals are expected to be cancelled and relegated to online-only events in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, here are five recommended spots to look out for the best hanami experience!
1. Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokyo
People of all walks and ages flock to the parks to enjoy a cherry blossom color season (Image credit: Yasufumi Nishi / JNTO)
The capital city of Japan, Tokyo (東京), has no lack of venues for both cherry blossoms viewing and Hanami parties can be held. However, none are as large as the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (新宿御苑). Located a stone’s throw away from JR Shinjuku Station (新宿駅 Shinjuku-eki), the garden boasts a large variety of cherry blossom trees with staggered blossoming cycles, so it is a great pick to view the different varieties of sakura if you happen to be in the big city a little bit too early or late for the main season.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (新宿御苑)
Address: 11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku-shi, Tokyo 160-0014
Nearest stations: Shinjuku-gyoemmae Station (新宿御苑前駅) / Shinjuku-sanchome Station (新宿三丁目駅)
Opening hours: 9am–5:30pm
2. Hitome Senbonzakura, Miyagi
There’s a reason why so many artists are inspired by Mountain + Sakura landscapes. (Image credit: Miyagi Prefecture / JNTO)
Aptly named “Hitome Senbonzakura” (一目千本桜), which means “One thousand Cherry Blossoms in a glance”, the Shiroishi Riverside (白石川 Shiraishigawa) of Ogawara (大河原町 Ōgawara-machi) in Miyagi Prefecture (宮城県 Miyagi-ken) is one of the few places that can actually boast having 1,000 cherry blossom trees. Just 30 minutes from Sendai Station (仙台駅 Sendai-eki) by train, you’ll be spoilt for choice looking for a picnic spot as this dazzling cherry tree tunnel that stretches 8km along the Shiroishi River, with the snow-capped Zao mountains completing the picturesque scene.
Hitome Senbonzakura (一目千本桜)
Address: Machimukai Oya, Ogawara, Shibata-gun, Miyagi 989-1201
Nearest station: Ogawara Station (大河原駅)
3. Kenrokuen, Ishikawa
Few things can soothe the soul like meditating in a perfectly-sculpted Japanese garden. (Image credit: Kanazawa City / JNTO)
Renowned for being one of most beautiful landscape gardens in Japan, it comes as no surprise that Kenrokuen Garden (兼六園) of Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県 Ishikawa-ken) has a dazzling display of cherry blossom views every year. You can find several beautiful viewing spots in the little paths leading up to the garden, as well as alongside the streams within the garden itself. The garden is nestled in the center of Kanazawa City (金沢市 Kanazawa-shi), which can be either a 30-minute walk from JR Kanazawa Station (金沢駅 Kanazawa-eki), or a 20-minute ride on the Kanazawa Loop Bus.
Kenrokuen Garden (兼六園)
Address: 1 Kenrokumachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0936
Nearest station: Kanazawa Station (金沢駅)
Opening hours: 7am–6pm (Mar-Oct), 8am–5pm (Oct–Feb)
4. Yoshino Park, Kagoshima
While not as frequently-visited as the rest of the country by overseas tourists, the Kyushu Region in the far south of Japan has its own fair share of cherry blossom viewing spots. One spot we’d recommend would be the Yoshino Park (吉野公園 Yoshinokōen) in Kagoshima City (鹿児島市 Kagoshima-shi), nestled in the capital of Kagoshima Prefecture (鹿児島県Kagoshima-ken). Spacious and timeless, this elevated park complex offers views of cherry blossom trees with several other iconic Kagoshima views in the distance, like Sakurajima (桜島) and the Kirishima Shinsui Gorge (霧島神水峡 Kirishima shinsui kai). Yoshino Park is accessible by the Nangoku Kotsu Bus (南国交通バス) from Kagoshima Chuo Station (鹿児島中央駅 Kagoshima-Chūō-eki) and offers free entry all year round.
Yoshino Park Kagoshima (吉野公園)
Address: 7955 Yoshinocho, Kagoshima, 892-0871
Nearest station: Kagoshima Chuo Station (鹿児島中央駅)
Opening hours: 7am–5pm
5. Fort Goryokaku, Hokkaido
A stunning marriage of European architecture and Japanese nature. (Image credit: Potus / Shutterstock)
Whenever we talk about the cherry blossom season, a common inclination is to think of the period from mid-March to early April. However, it is entirely possible to find these elusive flowers blooming as late as May! Where, you may ask? It’s no other than Hokkaido (北海道), in the far north Japan, where the colder climate means a later blooming season. In the city of Hakodate, the Star Fort Goryokaku (五稜郭 Goryōkaku) will be lush with cherry blossoms along its winding moats, making it one of the most unique sakura spots in Hokkaido. A bird’s eye view of the entire fort complex can be seen from the top of the nearby Goryokaku Tower.
Goryokaku Park (五稜郭)
Address: 44 Goryokakucho, Hakodate, Hokkaido 040-0001, Japan
Nearest station: Hakodate Station (函館駅) / Goryokaku Koen Mae Tram Station (五稜郭公園前)
Opening hours: 9am–6pm
Much like the transient nature of cherry blossoms, we can only look forward to the day when this pandemic passes and we can all safely travel again. Till then, let’s continue putting these beautiful spots into our travel wishlist and wait until the day of our return to Japan to view these flowers once again.
Header image credit: Y.Shimizu / JNTO