Sakura on the Go

The most celebrated few weeks of the year in Japan are almost indisputably during sakura season when thickets of cherry blossom trees are found blooming spectacularly at every turn. While the Japanese are known for their appreciation of the changing of all four of the country’s distinct seasons, the springtime cherry blossom has been a favourite for centuries inspiring multifarious artworks: traditional woodblock prints, 17-syllable haiku, and - these days - an extensive menu of sakura-infused products. As every poem about sakura will teach you: cherry blossom is fleeting. So, if your trip to Japan coincides with these few wonderful weeks then planning the perfect itinerary is crucial.

Sakura Spotting on the Go

Modest displays of cherry blossom start as early as January in Japan’s tropical island Okinawa and anywhere between mid-March and mid-April across mainland Japan. Since stationary sakura spotting has its limits, we’re here to help you chase the blossoms upthe country with our guide to o-hanami (flower viewing) on the go.

■Trainspotting

Sakura Spotting on the Go

If you’re travelling anywhere around Japan it’s most likely that you’ll be hopping on a train at some point. Not only is the reputed comfort and cleanliness of Japanese trains sure to not disappoint but a train ride in spring is a sightseeing trip in itself. If the timing is right you can keep the sakura zensen on your side by starting your Japanese journey in Kyushu and slowly making your way north all the way up to Hokkaido. Keep your eyes peeled and you’re likely to see clusters of blossom on almost every train journey.

Nara: For the first-class views we recommend a ride on the Kintetsu-Yoshino Line for an excitement-building journey through the pink, mountainous trail approaching Mt. Yoshino in Nara Prefecture

Kyoto: For pure sightseeing purposes the Sagano Scenic Railway in Kyoto, rightly nicknamed the Sagano Romantic Train, promises postcard worthy scenes as you chug through tunnels of blushing sakura.

Just grab yourself a bento box and a window seat and get sakura spotting!

■Rock the Boat

It’s no secret that the majority of sakura trees around the country have been carefully planted for aesthetic perfection and those positioned along the river banks are an undeniable highlight of that. A boat trip will take you as close to the action as possible as you glide through overhanging sakura trees creating mystical reflections and forming beds of blossom across the river.

Lake Biwa: While there is no shortage of breathtaking cherry blossom around Kyoto, escaping the city centre by boat offers a peaceful break from the swarming crowds. Making your way to the east side of the sprawling Lake Biwa brings you to the history-rich Hachiman-bori Canal which you can discover on a tour led by the Hachiman-bori Meguri boat company.

Tokyo: Want to take your boat trip to the next level? Try out a yakatabune, which is a centuries-old style of barge tour that incorporates both sightseeing and a traditional sat down meal. On the Yakatabune AMITATSU tour guests can enjoy the passing sights of Tokyo’s cherry blossom-enveloped landmarks while feasting on tempura, sashimi, and pickles.

■The Rickshaw Run

While the esteemed reputation of 21st-century Japanese transportation is mainly thanks to some of the world’s fastest bullet trains, let’s not forget that the rickshaw (or jinrikisha in Japanese) in fact originates from Japan. Found scattered around tourist spots all over the country, rickshaws are a leisurely way to discover the area giving you time to take in the views.

Shiga: One of the unmissable spots for catching a rickshaw is the sakura-filled streets surrounding the base of Hikone Castle in Shiga Prefecture.

Tokyo: The old town in Tokyo comprises a number of picturesque streets with rickshaws easy to come by. A ride will take you anywhere from the busy streets of Ueno to the old houses of Asakusa and the famed Sensoji Temple.

As the rickshaw runners know their districts well they’re pretty sakura savvy so just let them know you’re on the lookout for cherry blossom and they can take you on the best route.

Getting Out and About During Sakura Season

While there’s no doubt that inebriating yourself under the falling sakura is a quintessential Japanese experience not to be missed, appreciating the blossom is in no way limited to picnics in crowded parks. Getting out and active during sakura season is the best way to see as much of Japan as you can while still making the most of the abundant cherry blossom around the country.

■Hiking

It’s easy to believe that the meticulously placed sakura trees around Japan’s city centres are the main spectacle of the country’s esteemed springtime show. However, head out into the countryside and you’ll find delicate blossom dusted across whole hillsides in fantastic shades of pastel pinks and wistful whites. For those eager to discover some of the ample Japanese mountains, get your hiking boots on and head to the hills to combine a fun day of walking with a satisfying fix of cherry blossom viewing.

Kanagawa: Mt. Kobo makes a good day out for sakura viewing just a two-hour train journey from Tokyo.

Nara: You’ll be rewarded for the extra trip down to Nara Prefecture’s Mt. Yoshino where an impressive spread of around 30,000 sakura trees lies across the hillside.

■Cycling

Around the end of March and the beginning of April the bland trees bordering the streets suddenly burst into life with lashings of pink and white blossom. Cycling around a city is a good way to take in as many of these streets as possible while hopping between the city’s top sakura spots. The Japanese are keen city cyclists so getting your hands on a rental bike shouldn’t prove difficult in most cities and big towns.

Tokyo: Blossom-heavy areas around Tokyo include Yoyogi Park and Ueno Park.

Kansai: The Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto, the deer-filled Nara Park, and Osaka Castle are some of the iconic views for cherry blossoms during springtime.

Kyushu: Rather skip the crowded areas and enjoy a bit more space to cycle at speed? Head down to Kumamoto in Kyushu for Ichifusa Dam Lake. As if the lake’s huge fountain and the dramatic surrounding scenery wasn’t enough, the ribbon-like trail of sakura trees that line the lake are a sight to behold.

■Kayaking and Canoeing

There’s something about cherry blossom along the water’s edge that gives the world a romantic, rosy glow. Now, what better way to get your fill of that irresistible scene than by taking to the water? Kayaking and canoeing opportunities are plentiful around Japan so if you’re visiting in spring it’s just about finding the right spot to enjoy every moment of paddling against a backdrop of breathtaking blossom.

Tokyo: If you’re sticking to Tokyo, Meguro River is well known as one of the capital’s top spots for o-hanami (flower viewing). Jumping on a canoe from Canoe Trip Racoon and rowing your way down the river is the perfect solution for beating the crowds without sacrificing some of Tokyo’s best views.

Kyoto: Alternatively, BSC Watersports Centre offer sakura lake tours at Kyoto’s huge neighbouring Lake Biwa.

A Taste of Spring

While most o-hanami (flower viewing) picnics consist of the usual convenience store selection of rice balls, potato chips, and canned drinks, if you want to pull out all the stops and impress your picnic buddies it’s time to search out consumable sakura for the ultimate cherry blossom experience.

■Sakura Cocktails

Nothing quite completes a sakura celebration like a good cherry blossom-infused cocktail. Bars along the bustling Meguro River prepare well for the occasion setting up pop-up bars outside where you can get your hands on a whole host of colourful, fruity cocktails including ones shaken up with real cherry blossom petals.

Tokyo: Picnicking into the evening can get a little chilly so for a warmer and more classy affair, move onto Shinjuku to live out a scene from Lost in Translation at the Park Hyatt Hotel’s New York Bar. While the sakura cocktails are a little more pricey than those along the river, with views over the blossom-saturated Shinjuku Gyoen park from the 52nd floor we’re most certainly not complaining.

■A Sprinkle of Sakura

While sakura infusion introduces you to the unique and subtle flavours of cherry blossom, there are just a handful of foods that incorporate the dainty petals while keeping their original form. Sakura hanazuke are a great little souvenir made up of sakura flowers preserved in salt. Added to hot water the flower opens up producing a delicately flavoured, fragrant tea.

Nagano: Kiso Valley in Nagano Prefecture specialises in cherry blossom flavoured hanazuke with Yamatoya near Suhara Station one of the best spots to pick up a few packets to take home.

■Sakura Mochi

It turns out that it’s not just the petals that produce that distinctive sakura flavouring but the leaves can also contribute to the taste. Sakura mochi comes in a few different forms: Kansai sweet shops shape out small pink rice balls called domyoji sakura mochi while those in Tokyo cook up chomeiji sakura mochi, a sweeter rice cake with a red bean paste centre. Both are wrapped up in a pickled Yoshino sakura leaf for the sakura mochi look.

The culinary competition between the East and West of Japan is a never ending dispute and one that visitors are welcomed to join in.

Osaka: To put the Kansai sakura mochi to the taste test head to Osaka’s Umeda district where the Sazae confectionary shop in the Hanshin department store serves up fresh and juicy domyoji.

Tokyo: Back in Tokyo, there’s no better place to pick up a chomeiji sakura mochi than the shop that goes by just that name along the Sumida River just a stone’s throw from the Tokyo Skytree.

Facility Name
New York Bar
Address
Tokyo Shinjuku-ku Nishishinjuku Park Hyatt Tokyo 3-7-1 52F
Phone
0353233458
Information Sources:
NAVITIME JAPAN
Facility Name
Yahatahorimeguri
Address
Shiga Pref. Oumihachimanshi Tagachou 743
Phone
0748335020
Information Sources:
NTT DIRECTORY SERVICES
Facility Name
Hikone Castle
Address
Shiga Pref. Hikoneshi Konkichou 1-1
Phone
0749222742
Hours
8:30-17:00
Closed
open everyday
Fees
[National Treasure Hikone Castle castle 410 years festival after the end of Normal Admission fee to view gold]
Admission fee to view (Hikone Castle-Gen Miyazono) yen General600, small/Junior High School Students200 yen
[a national treasure, Hikone Castle castle 410 years Festival during the period of Admission fee to view (3 May 18, 2017-December 10, 2008)]
Hikone Castle (including Gen Miyazono-opening of the country Memorial) General1,000 yen and small Junior High School Students300 yen
Hikone Castle, Hikone Castle Museum (Gen Miyazono-the opening of the country, including the Memorial) General1,500 yen and small Junior High School Students550 yen
Introduction
A castle built over a period of some 20 years by Ii Naokatsu, the son of Ii Naomasa, who was counted as one of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s four greatest generals. Many of the structures, including the castle tower; turrets; and the Genkyuen, a garden for the Shimoyashiki villa; look as they did when first constructed and are designated National Treasures. The large horse stable, with its walls built in the early modern period, is a particularly rare example of such a structure and is designated a national Important Cultural Property. The inner moat can be circled in a pleasure boat that belonged to the Ii clan; ride it and you will feel like a daimyo (feudal lord) yourself.
Information Sources:
NAVITIME JAPAN
Facility Name
Asakusa
Address
Tokyo Taitou-ku Kaminarimon 2 chome
Information Sources:
NAVITIME JAPAN
Facility Name
Yoyogi Park
Address
Tokyo Shibuya-ku Yoyogikamizonochou , Jinnan 2
Phone
0334696081
Hours
List release
Fees
Free
Parking Lot
Available
Introduction
A metropolitan park adjacent to four stations including Harajuku Station and Yoyogi-koen Station. There are forest parks in area A, and an athletic field and event halls in area B. The park, full of greenery, is familiar to the people of Tokyo as a place for relaxation with its bird sanctuaries where people can bird-watch, and the biggest dog run in Tokyo. It is famous for holding many flea markets and events.
Information Sources:
NAVITIME JAPAN
Facility Name
Ueno-onshi-koen Park
Address
Tokyo Taitou-ku Uenokouen - Ikenohata 3
Phone
0338285644
Hours
5:00-23:00 (No entry outside Hours)
Introduction
This public park in Taito City is also called Ueno Park or Ueno Forest. In the Edo period this park was the premises of Toeizan Kaneiji Temple. The park has been selected as one of the 100 best places to see Japanese cherry blossoms, and in spring a large crowd turns out for hanami parties. Inside the park is the famous statue of Saigo Takamori, as well as cultural facilities such as the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Nature and Science, the National Museum of Western Art, and the Ueno Zoo.
Information Sources:
NAVITIME JAPAN
Facility Name
Osaka Castle
Address
Osaka Osakashi Chuou-ku Osakajou 1-1
Hours
9:00-17:00 (until Latest entry 16:30)
Closed
New Year's Holiday(12/28-1/1)
Fees
Adults 600 yen, Junior High School Students or less Free * Junior High School Students require proof of necessity (such as a student notebook)
Introduction
Osaka Castle was built by the Imperial Regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi between 1583 and 1598. The castle was built on a magnificent scale, but was destroyed just 17 years later after the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the destruction of the Toyotomi clan in the Siege of Osaka in 1615. Thereafter, the castle was rebuilt by the Tokugawa shogunate under the command of Todo Takatora but was once again lost due to a fire caused by a lightning strike. The current castle tower is the third generation to stand here and was completed in 1931 through donations from local citizens. The interior of the castle is a history museum and visitors can enjoy information about the history of Osaka Castle and dioramas. The castle was registered as a national Tangible Cultural Property in 1997.
Information Sources:
NAVITIME JAPAN
Facility Name
Shibo dam Kohan
Address
Kumamoto Pref. Kumagunmizukamimura Yuyama
Phone
0966440314
Business hours
Visit free
Regular holiday
Visit free
Information Sources:
NAVITIME JAPAN
Facility Name
Suhara(Nagano)
Address
Kiso-gun, Nagano Prefecture village Oguwa
Information Sources:
NAVITIME JAPAN
Facility Name
Yamatoya
Address
Nagano Pref. Kisogunokuwamura Suhara 565
Phone
0264552918
Business hours
7-19
Regular holiday
Irregular holiday
Information Sources:
NAVITIME JAPAN
Facility Name
Sasae shokuhin hanshinhyakka
Address
Osaka Osakashi Kita-ku Umeda Hanshin Department Store 1-13-13 B1F
Phone
0663488503
Information Sources:
NAVITIME JAPAN

PLACES IN THIS ARTICLE

  • dummy image

    Biwako

    Travel/Sightseeing
    Shiga Pref. Otsu City Hamaotsu5chome
  • dummy image

    Yahatahorimeguri

    For living/Bank/Hospital
    Shiga Pref. Oumihachimanshi Tagachou 743
  • dummy image

    Chomeijisakuramochi

    Shopping
    Tokyo Sumida-ku Mukoujima 5-1-14
  • dummy image

    Yamatoya

    Shopping
    Nagano Pref. Kisogunokuwamura Suhara 565
  • dummy image

    Shibo dam Kohan

    Travel/Sightseeing
    Kumamoto Pref. Kumagunmizukamimura Yuyama
  • dummy image

    Suhara(Nagano)

    Transportation
    Kiso-gun, Nagano Prefecture village Oguwa
  • dummy image

    Asakusa

    Transportation
    Tokyo Taitou-ku Kaminarimon 2 chome
  • dummy image

    Sasae shokuhin hanshinhyakka

    Shopping
    Osaka Osakashi Kita-ku Umeda Hanshin Department Store 1-13-13 B1F
  • dummy image

    New York Bar

    Eat out/Cafe/Bar/Pub
    Tokyo Shinjuku-ku Nishishinjuku Park Hyatt Tokyo 3-7-1 52F
  • Yoyogi Park image

    Yoyogi Park

    Fun/Leisure/Hobby
    Tokyo Shibuya-ku Yoyogikamizonochou , Jinnan 2
  • Ueno-onshi-koen Park  image

    Ueno-onshi-koen Park

    Fun/Leisure/Hobby
    Tokyo Taitou-ku Uenokouen - Ikenohata 3
  • Osaka Castle image

    Osaka Castle

    Travel/Sightseeing
    Osaka Osakashi Chuou-ku Osakajou 1-1
  • Hikone Castle image

    Hikone Castle

    Travel/Sightseeing
    Shiga Pref. Hikoneshi Konkichou 1-1
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