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Sakura Forecast 2024: 7 recommended spots for cherry blossoms in Central & East Japan

Sakura Forecast 2024: 7 recommended spots for cherry blossoms in Central & East Japan

Hello sakura lovers~ In this year’s cherry blossom forecast series we explored the many popular spots of west Japan, which included the grandiose castles of Kansai, the beyond-the-city retreats of Chugoku & Shikoku, and the pleasant parks of Kyushu. This time, we’ll be traversing the eastern half of the country, where most of the sakura tends to bloom later into the season—some even sprouting their colours as late as May!

 

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

 

1. Meguro River Cherry Blossoms Promenade (Tokyo)

One of the most instagrammable streets in Tokyo this time of the year. (Image credit: tawatchai07 on Freepik)

 

We’ll start off this list in familiar territory with one of the most popular cherry blossom sites in Tokyo (東京)! Located along the southern edge of the Yamanote Train Line, only a few minutes away by train from Shibuya and Harajuku, the Meguro River Cherry Blossoms Promenade (目黒川の桜並木 Megurogawa-no-sakura-namiki) is one of Tokyo's leading cherry blossom viewing spots with about 800 cherry trees lined up for 4km. Here you can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the riverside as you pop in and out of the many stylish cafes along the way during the day. Come night, why not take in the vibes of the glittering paper lanterns which illuminate the elusive sakura trees (sunset until 9pm) while snacking on festival food from stalls that pop up during the annual Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Festival (中目黒桜まつり, 18 March–8 April this year)?

 

Meguro River Cherry Blossom Promenade (目黒川の桜並木)
Typical blooming period: Late March to early April
Address: Nakameguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-0061
Nearest station: Naka-meguro Station (中目黒駅) / JR Meguro Station (偕楽園駅)
Access: The central location of the Cherry Blossom Promenade is located a 5-minute walk from Naka-meguro Station downriver, and a 15-minute walk from JR Meguro Station upriver.
Opening hours: 24 hours (Festival dates and hours TBC)
Admission fee: Free

 

2. Yamazaki River (Aichi)

At Yamazaki River, you will find more than 600 cherry blossom trees stretching out across the river. (Image credit: ©️NAGOYA CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU)

 

Thinking of “sakura-hopping” between Tokyo and Osaka? Don’t forget to stop by Nagoya City (名古屋市 Nagoya-shi) in Aichi Prefecture (愛知県 Aichi-ken), which is a convenient midpoint via the Tokaido Shinkansen. In between visiting the famous Nagoya Castle and Higashiyama Zoo, take a leisurely stroll along Yamazaki River (山崎川 Yamazakigawa). The 600 cherry blossom trees along the banks of Yamazaki River extend on both sides for 2.5km between Ishikawa Bridge and Ochiai Bridge in Mizuho Ward (瑞穂区 Mizuho-ku). Despite being located in a residential area, Yamazaki River was selected as one of Japan’s 100 best spots for sakura, making it a popular cherry blossom viewing spot for locals. 

 

“Path of Four Seasons” Yamazaki River (山崎川四季の道)
Typical blooming period: Late March to early April
Address: 4-1 Otodomachi, Nagoya-shi, Aichi 467-0007
Nearest station: Mizuho Undojo Nishi Station (瑞穂運動場西駅) / Mizuho Undojo Higashi Station Station (瑞穂運動場東駅)
Access: 15-minute walk from Mizuho Undojo Nishi Station / Mizuho Undojo Higashi Station
Opening hours: 24 hours
Admission fee: Free
Tel: +81-52-972-2884

 

3. Kenrokuen (Ishikawa)

Few things can soothe the soul like meditating in a perfectly-sculpted Japanese garden such as Kenrokuen. (Image credit: Kanazawa City / JNTO)

 

Renowned for being one of the 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 centre 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)
Access: 20-minute bus ride on the Kanazawa Loop Bus / 30-minute walk from Kanazawa Station
Opening hours: 7am–6pm (Mar–Oct), 8am–5pm (Oct–Feb)
Admission fee: ¥320
Tel: +81-76-234-3800

 

4. Matsumoto Castle (Nagano)

A national treasure made even more beautiful with the coming of spring. (Image credit: ©JNTO)

 

Matsumoto Castle (松本城 Matsumoto-jō), the uniquely black Crow Castle (烏城), is one of Japan’s most well-preserved castles and considered a National Treasure of Japan (国宝 kokuhō). While many castle grounds in Japan also have cherry blossom trees in their surrounding gardens, Matsumoto Castle is one of the few where you can get a shot with a nearly all-black exterior.

 

Illumination events happen fairly often at Matsumoto Castle Park—springtime is no exception, with two annual nighttime events happening on the castle grounds. These include the Nighttime Cherry Blossom Viewing (夜桜会 yozakura-kai) and the Corridor of Light (光の回廊 Hikari-no-Kairō), during which the castle tower, interior garden, and the row of cherry trees by the outer moat will be lit up so that visitors may enjoy a unique form of hanami through the night instead of in the day.

 

Matsumoto Castle Park (松本城公園)
Address: 1-1 Marunouchi, Matsumoto, Nagano 390-0873
Nearest station: Matsumoto Station (弘前駅)
Access: 15-20 minute walk from Matsumoto Station
Opening hours (Main Castle Keep): 8:30am–5pm (Last entry: 4:30pm)
Opening hours (Illuminations): Nighttime Cherry Blossom Viewing: 5:30pm–9pm, Corridor of Light: 6:30pm–10pm
Admission fee: ¥700 (Adults), ¥300 (Children aged 6–15 years old)
Tel: +81 263-32-2902

 

5. Hitome Senbonzakura (Miyagi)

The kind of view you’d usually only see in animation or TV. (Image credit: photoAC)

 

Heading up north for our next entry, the Hitome Senbonzakura (一目千本桜) is a sight that cannot be missed if you’ve ever wanted to take in a thousand cherry blossom trees in one glance! 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 (白石川 Shiroishigawa), with the snow-capped Zao mountains completing the picturesque scene. 

 

For a further deep dive into this locale, check out our previous article on the multiple ways you can enjoy Hitome Senbonzakura!

 

Hitome Senbonzakura (一目千本桜)
Typical blooming period: Early to mid-April
Address: Machimukai Oya, Ogawara, Shibata-gun, Miyagi 989-1201
Nearest station: Ogawara Station (大河原駅) / Funaoka Station (船岡駅)
Access: Most of the locations to view the Hitome Senbonzakura are accessible within a 15-20-minute walk from either Ogawara Station or Funaoka Station.
Opening hours: 24 hours
Admission: Free
Tel: +81-224-55-2123

 

6. Hirosaki Park (Aomori)

Hirosaki Castle is consistently in the running as THE best place in Japan to view sakura. (Image credit: Tohoku Tourism Promotion Organization)

 

Even further up north is the land of snow and apples, Aomori Prefecture (青森県 Aomori-ken)! Besides those two things, the storied city of Hirosaki is also famous for a third highlight—one of the most beautiful cherry blossom sites in all of Japan. Hirosaki Park (弘前公園 Hirosakikōen), home of Hirosaki Castle (弘前城 Hirosakijō) and up to 2,600 cherry trees, transforms into a magical pink paradise in the later half of April, with the Somei-Yoshino variant blooming slightly earlier than the Yae-beni Shirare (Weeping sakura) cherry blossoms. The sheer volume of cherry blossom flowers that bloom during this time is such that you can find days where the surface of the castle moat becomes completely carpeted in petals, making a view of a castle flanked by a constant pink river.

 

Michinoku_18_Heart.jpg (753 KB)

Heart-shape in the canopy of flowers. (Image credit: Japanmase)

 

See if you can spot the popular site for taking a picture of the heart sakura, where the branches of two different trees in the park form the shape of a heart!

 

Hirosaki Park (弘前公園)
Typical blooming period: Late April to early May
Address: 1 Shimoshirogane-cho, Hirosaki-shi, Aomori 036-8356
Nearest station: Hirosaki Station (弘前駅)
Nearest bus-stop: Shiyakushomae Bus Stop
Access: Hirosaki Park’s Otemon Gate is a 5-minute walk from the Shiyakushomae Bus Stop, which can be reached by the Tamenobu Bus from Hirosaki Apple Park, or the Dotemachi Loop bus from Hirosaki Station.
Opening hours: 9am–5pm (Apr–Nov), 7am–9pm (Sakura Festival) 
Admission fee (Castle and Botanical Park common ticket): ¥520 (Adult), ¥160 (Children) 
Tel: +81-172-33-8739

 

7. Fort Goryokaku (Hokkaido)

Goryokaku Park is the stunning result of the 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, at no other than Hokkaido (北海道), in 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)
Typical blooming period: Late April to early May
Address: 44 Goryokakucho, Hakodate, Hokkaido 040-0001
Nearest station: Hakodate Station (函館駅) / Goryokaku Koen Mae Tram Station (五稜郭公園前)
Nearest bus stop: Keisatsusho-mae Bus Stop (警察署前【警察署向かい】) / Geijutsu Hall-mae (芸術ホール前)
Access: 3-minute walk from nearby bus stops / 10-minute walk from Goryokaku Koen Mae Tram Station
Opening hours: 9am–6pm 
Admission: ¥900
Tel: +81-138-21-3456

 

With that concludes our list of recommendations for sakura viewing spots throughout all of Japan! While it may seem like a daunting task to try and visit all of the places we’ve listed here, don’t believe for even a second that this is anything more than a starting point. Beyond this exhaustive list lies over a thousand more places where cherry blossoms can be found in spring, so the best thing to do would be to head out there, explore, and see for yourself which places may have the best cherry blossoms to admire!

 

JapanRailClub
April's theme: Spring Beginnings. (Image credit: JAPAN RAIL CLUB)

 

Hungry for more?

Look out for sakura-themed snacks in JAPAN RAIL CLUB's April 2024 Omiyage Snack Box! Titled "Spring Beginnings", this seasonal Japanese snack box is filled with snacks that are reminiscent of your time viewing the sakura blossoms in Japan. Get yours by 30 April 2024 and enter this exclusive promo code "SPRING14" to enjoy USD33.25/SGD 44 off when you subscribe to the 6-month Snack Subscription Plan.

Header image credit: JR Times

 

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