Where to enjoy this year's sakura in Kyushu and Shikoku.
Japan’s southern regions, Kyushu and Shikoku, are the first to show signs of spring as the cherry blossoms bloom across Japan like a pink tidal wave. Kyushu’s capital, Fukuoka, is famous for its ramen, but don’t let your taste buds pull you away from Fukuoka’s superb flower viewing locations. Neighboring prefectures such as Kagoshima and Kumamoto, as well as the spectacular sakura views found in Shikoku, will make any trip to Japan’s southern islands this spring an excellent experience.
Some 1,300 cherry blossom trees can be found in this park overlooking Hakata Bay. Extremely popular for hanami picnics, Nishi Park is one of Japan’s top sakura viewing spots. There are also spectacular views of the bay, Shikanoshima Island, and Fukuoka City. During sakura (cherry blossom) season, food stalls spring up along the walkway leading to Terumo Shrine in the park. Go at night to see the trees illuminated.
The Fukuoka Castle Ruins are home to more than 1,000 cherry blossoms. Located inside Maizuru Park, all that remains of the fortress are ancient stone walls, which, thankfully, look beautiful in contrast with the white and pink flowers. The moat surrounding the castle also creates a lovely mirror image of the trees. From late March to mid-April, the Fukuoka Castle Sakura Festival attracts more than 30,000 visitors a year, so expect large crowds.
Take a ferry across the bay from Fukuoka City, and you’ll discover little Nokonoshima Island. The locals love it for outdoor activities like camping and barbecues, but it’s even more famous for its flower garden. In spring the island is splashed with color, including pink and white from 260 blooming cherry blossom trees. Crowded all year long, Nokonoshima Island is especially popular with newlyweds.
This spot is for people who’d enjoy combining their sakura viewing with a hiking trip. Around 2,000 cherry blossom trees are planted within Mount Abura’s 175 acres, as well as 3,000 trees from 46 countries. There are multiple hiking courses to choose from, and the summit offers breathtaking views of the bay and Fukuoka City.
Although only a few original structures remain since its construction in 1607, Kumamoto Castle is still one of Japan’s best feudal fortresses. Kumamoto Castle and its famed black and white tower are surrounded by nearly 1,000 blooming sakura trees. Just as beautiful in the day, Kumamoto Castle is at its most iconic during the nightly light up. While the castle was damaged by earthquakes in 2016 and closed for repair, it has partially reopened to the public.
Oka Castle has a long history. Originally constructed in 1185, it was a mountaintop stronghold for Minamoto no Yoshitsune, one of Japan’s most celebrated samurai. Today, it’s a popular hiking destination that offers beautiful sweeping views of Oita’s forests. More than 1,000 cherry blossom trees are planted on the castle’s grounds which bloom during the Oka Castle Sakura Festival at the beginning of April.
This popular sakura viewing spot has around 3,000 cherry trees. It’s also Saga Prefecture’s only spot on Japan’s official list of the best 100 cherry blossom locations. The trees are lit up at night and beautifully reflect off the central pond’s surface. Try one of the traditional Japanese yokan sweets as you stroll.
Matsuyama Castle sits on top of Mount Katsuyama. Constructed sometime after 1602, it is one of Japan’s 12 remaining feudal castles still intact since the Meiji Restoration. In the castle moat is Matsuyama Shiroyama Park which is one of Japan’s best-known sakura hot spots, it’s packed with cherry blossom chasers every year thanks to its spectacular views, festivals, and nighttime light up.
Also known as Shiudeyama, Mount Shiude is a magnificent mountain overlooking the Seto Inland Sea. There are more than 1,000 cherry blossom trees planted along the mountainside. Some argue that Shiudeyama is the greatest sakura viewing spot in all of Japan. Whether or not that is true, the combination of the sea, the setting sun, and the cherry blossoms will leave you in total awe.
Popularly known as Konpira-san, Kotohira-gu is known for its 1,368 steps which serve as a religious pilgrimage. During spring, the shrine is covered in a canopy of pink cherry blossoms. Some 3,500 cherry blossom trees are planted in and around the shrine grounds—making it one of the densest spots in Kagawa Prefecture. The priest and shrine maidens add even more to the overall sacred atmosphere. There is also a cherry blossom festival beginning in late March that makes for a great time to visit.