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Sakura Forecast 2023: 7 recommended spots for cherry blossoms in West Japan

Sakura Forecast 2023: 7 recommended spots for cherry blossoms in West Japan

2023 promises to bring around a landmark spring season for Japan, as it’ll be the first year since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in which overseas tourists will be able to freely travel and see the flowers in person! Coupled together with the easing of COVID-19 guidelines in Japan on 13 March, many soon-to-be picnickers may look forward to being able to enjoy their hanami (花見 flower-viewing) sessions without a care in the world.

 

But before you go about packing your lunch boxes and scheduling your days off, have you first already decided where you’d like to go to enjoy the cherry blossoms? Depending on which part of Japan you might be in, various factors such as the temperature and environment could affect the blooming dates of the sensitive sakura (桜) blooms. Fortunately, the ever-relied-on Japanese weather site Tenavi has already put out several forecasts in the past couple of months pinpointing the perfect timings to view the sakura trees at full bloom:

 

Visit the official Tenavi site for a comprehensive breakdown on these blooming dates. (Image credit: JR Times)

 

As you can see above, many parts of Japan will be able to see fully-blooming sakura slightly earlier than usual this year as a result of slightly warmer weather! But even with this graphic, how are we supposed to choose between so many interesting places to add to our itinerary to see the sakura? Fret not, because in our two-part sakura forecast series, we’ll be further elaborating on these recommended spots and giving you the details on how to get there, so that you’ll be able to make a more informed choice on where you’d like to go, starting with the locations in west Japan!

 

1. Osaka Castle (Osaka)

There are going to be a lot of castles on this list, as castle parks are usually prime spots to find sakura trees! (Image credit: ©OSAKA CONVENTION & TOURISM BUREAU)

 

We’ll start this list off with one of the most famous spots in Osaka (大阪府 Ōsaka-fu), the eponymous Osaka Castle(大阪城 Ōsaka-jō)! This spectacular five-storey castle is located in the middle of a historic park filled with all kinds of blossoms, from peaches to plums. It is an especially popular spot during the cherry blossom season, when the sprawling castle grounds are covered with food vendors, taiko (太鼓) drummers, and park-goers for the annual hanami.

 

Osaka Castle (大阪城)
Typical blooming period: Late March to early April
Address: 1-1 Osaka-jo, Chuo-ku, Osaka 540-0002
Nearest station: Ōsakajōkōen Station (大阪城公園駅)
Access: Osaka Castle Park is directly connected to Ōsakajōkōen Station. The main keep is roughly a 15-minute walk from the entrance.
Opening hours (regular): 9am–5pm (Last entry: 4:30pm)
Opening hours (Cherry blossom season, 25 March–9 April): 9am–6pm (Last entry: 5:30pm)
Admission fee: ¥600 (Adults)
Tel: +81-6-6941-3044

 

2. Philosopher’s Path (Kyoto)

A very popular half-day walk for people who want to experience the fabled old Japan vibe of Kyoto. (Image credit: photoAC)

 

The Philosopher's Path (哲学の道 Tetsugaku no michi) is the premier hanami spot of Kyoto City (京都市 Kyōto-shi) and possesses an air of elegance and sophistication befitting its name. For 2km, this stone path connects the popular Ginkakuji (銀閣寺) to Nanzenji Temple (南禅寺), with several other temples, shrines, and shops to see along the way.

 

Philosopher's Path (哲学の道)
Typical blooming period: Late March to early April
Address: Tetsugaku no Michi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8426
Nearest station: Marutamachi Station
Access (From the Ginkakuji Side): From the Marutamachi Station on the Kyoto Municipal Subway Karasuma Line, take city bus 204 and alight at “Ginkakuji-michi” Bus Stop.
Opening hours: 24 hours
Admission fee: Free
Tel: +81-75-343-0548

 

3. Wakayama Castle (Wakayama)

Wakayama Castle is a treasure trove for history buffs interested in the Sengoku Period. (Image credit: ©Wakayama Prefectural Tourism Federation)

 

Castle and sakura in Japan go together like bread and jam, and the next castle on our list is no different. Approximately 600 cherry trees bloom within the Wakayama Castle (和歌山城 Wakayama-jō) grounds every April, filling the historic site with the faintly sweet fragrance of cherry in full blossom. The trees are also lit up at night, creating some truly magical and exceptional sceneries.

 

Wakayama Castle (和歌山城)
Typical blooming period: Late March to early April
Address: 3 Ichibancho, Wakayama-shi, Wakayama 640-8146
Nearest station: Wakayama Station (和歌山駅) / Wakayamashi Station (和歌山市駅)
Access: From Wakayama Station, take Wakayama City Bus No. 23, 25, 33, 121 and alight at "Kencho Mae" Bus Stop. From Wakayamashi Station, take Wakayama City Bus No. 0, 25 and alight at “Wakayama-jō-mae” Bus Stop.
Opening hours: 9am–5:30pm (Last entry: 5pm)
Admission fee: ¥410 (Adults), ¥200 (Elementary and Junior High students) 
Tel: +81-73-435-1044

 

4. Hyotan Sakura Park (Kochi)

This secluded mountain recommendation is for those who love hiking and the great outdoors. (Image credit: photoAC)

 

Located in a park upstream of the Niyodo River (仁淀川) is the Hyotan Sakura (ひょうたん桜), a 500-year-old cherry tree that has been designated a Natural Monument by Kochi Prefecture (高知県 Kochi-ken) in the island of Shikoku (四国). There are hundreds of varieties of cherry blossoms spread across the country, and the Hyotan (ひょうたん) variety which this particular tree is part of is named as such after its gourd-shaped buds. Travel to this ancient cherry tree for a magnificent view of the mountains of Kochi, and savour the lively atmosphere of the various food stalls that pop up along the promenade.

 

Hyotan Sakura Park (ひょうたん桜公園)
Typical blooming period: Late March to early April
Address: 994 Sakura, Niyodogawa-cho, Agawa-gun, Kochi 781-1505
Nearest station: Sakawa Station (佐川駅)
Access: From Sakawa Station, take the Sakawa Kawado Line Bus for 30 minutes to Tosa Osaki Bus stop. The famous Hyotan Sakura Tree waits at the top of a 1-hour hike.
Opening hours: 24 hours
Admission: Free
Tel: +81-8-835-1083

 

5. Miyajima Island (Hiroshima)

Even the resident deer population of Miyajima love the cherry blossoms that come with  every Spring. (Image credit: photoAC)

 

While usually more well-known amongst koyo (紅葉 autumn foliage) lovers as one of the best places in all of Japan to view autumn foliage, and crunch on tasty maple leaf tempura, Miyajima Island (宮島) in Hiroshima Prefecture (広島県 Hiroshima-ken) is also home to several excellent cherry blossom spots. Try your luck with a picnic under the cherry groves by the Tahoto Pagoda (多宝塔), and you could find yourself blessed with a visit by a curious (or hungry) deer under the cherry trees, like a scene straight out of a fairy tale.

 

Itsukushima Jinja Tahoto Pagoda (嚴島多宝塔)
Typical blooming period: Late March to early April
Address: 70-2 Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima 739-0588
Nearest station: Miyajimaguchi Station (宮島口駅)
Access: Get to Miyajima by boarding the Miyajima Ferry (Roundtrip: ¥360). Tahoto Pagoda is a 20-minute walk from Miyajima Pier. 
Opening hours: 24 hours
Admission fee: Free
Tel: +81-82-944-2020

 

6. Maizuru Park (Fukuoka)

An easy addition to anyone’s Hakata City itinerary, close as it is to the city centre. (Image credit: photoAC)

 

The island of Kyushu (九州) has its fair share of unique sakura spots as well, most of which bloom slightly ahead of the curve thanks to the warmer climes of the region. The ruins of Fukuoka Castle (福岡城跡 Fukuoka-jōato) are located in the middle of the city in Maizuru Park (舞鶴公園 Maizuru-kōen), named after the castle's alias, Maizuru Castle. A number of walking paths are lined with cherry trees so that visitors can walk through a tunnel of flowers, and there are also plenty of lawned areas for holding hanami parties under the blossoms. A special event known as the Fukuoka Castle Cherry Blossom Festival (福岡城さくらまつり Fukuoka-jō Sakura Matsuri) will also be held in the last week of March, featuring highlights such as nighttime illuminations, a sakura gourmet area and even a samurai warrior procession!

 

Maizuru Park (舞鶴公園)
Typical blooming period: Late March to early April
Address: 1-4 Jonai, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka, 810-0043
Nearest station: Ohorikoen Subway Station (大濠公園駅)
Access: The Fukuoka Castle Ruins can be reached within a 10-15 minute walk from Ohori Koen Subway Station.
Opening hours: 24 hours
Admission: Free
Tel: +81 92-781-2153

 

7. Yoshino Park (Kagoshima)

Despite the name, there aren’t actually many (if any) sakura trees on Sakurajima volcano. (Image credit: ©Kagoshima City)

 

Another spot you shouldn’t miss should you find yourself in southern Kyushu would be Yoshino Park (吉野公園 Yoshino-kōen) in Kagoshima Prefecture (鹿児島県 Kagoshima-ken)! A city park developed over a period of about eight years, this is a prime spot to view not only sakura blossoms, but the majestic Sakurajima (桜島) volcano as well, with the Kirishima Mountain Range (霧島山) in the distance.

 

Yoshino Park (吉野公園)
Typical blooming period: Late March
Address: 7955 Yoshino-cho, Kagoshima, 892-0871
Nearest station: Kagoshima Station (鹿児島駅)
Access: From Kagoshima Station, take the N4 City Bus line bound for Yoshino Golf Course for 20 minutes, and depart at “Yoshinokoen” Bus Stop.
Opening hours: 7am–6pm (Last entry 5:30pm)
Admission: Free 
Tel: +81-99-243-0155

 

We hope this information is helpful to you in planning your next cherry blossom season trip to west Japan! Stay tuned for part 2 of this article, where we’ll be covering the recommended spots in Central and East Japan next!

 

Header image credit: JR Times / Afiq

 

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