The best places to view sakura in Hokkaido.
After sweeping its way across the country like an express shinkansen, cherry blossom fever pulls up for its final stop, Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture. Hokkaido’s capital city Sapporo has several nice parks for flower viewing, but nearby cities like Hakodate set the bar even higher. Here are some of the best places to savor the end of the sakura (cherry blossom) season.
In the spring, about 3,000 cherry trees line this seven-kilometer-long road turning it a vivid pink. The spectacular sight frequently ranks among the best blossom spots in Japan and attracts over 200,000 visitors every year.
Matsumae Park surrounds the only castle in Hokkaido and sports over 10,000 cherry trees with no less than 250 varieties. Every year from late April to mid-May, the Matsumae Sakura Festival takes place around the castle and visitors can enjoy light projections, local delicacies, and cultural performances, while picnicking under the blossoms.
Makomanai Park has a lot to offer visitors—peaceful walking courses, stadiums from the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo and around 13,000 cherry trees all blooming spectacularly in spring. Sapporo’s prime picnic spot also has a salmon museum.
Located next to Sapporo’s Asahiyama Zoo, this park is famous for its sweeping vista of untouched Hokkaido landscape. There are also over 2,000 Yezo mountain cherry trees making the scenery extra special every spring.
Around 1,000 cherry trees bloom here, turning the entirety of Asahigaoka Park pink. Entry is free and picnickers are welcome. They even illuminate the cherry trees at night to give the park a more magical feel. There is also a small petting zoo, including baby rabbits and guinea pigs.
Do you love sakura and onsen (hot springs)? In Noboribetsu you’ll get them both. The town’s main road is lined with cherry trees that create a near endless tunnel of blossoms for you to drive or walk through as you head into town. Everyone knows, cherry blossom viewing is such hard work, so you’ll definitely need to relax in the area’s hot springs afterward.
Sitting at the base of Mt. Hakodate with views of the sea, Hakodate Park is a relaxing place to spend your time. Every spring the park’s 400 or so cherry trees are lit up with hanging lanterns so you can enjoy the festive mood into the night. Unlike Goryokaku Park across the city, Hakodate Park is more popular with locals and families than tourists and offers a glimpse into the true hanami experience.
Goryokaku is one of Hokkaido’s star attractions—literally. Visitors come all year-’round to take in its exceptional scenery and learn some history from the Hakodate War. The only thing that could possibly make it better is the sight of 1,600 cherry trees surrounding the star-shaped Goryokaku in full bloom. To fully take in the park’s unique shape and get a birdseye view of Hakodate city, head up to the observation deck of the nearby Goryokaku Tower.
There are many famous parks in Sapporo, and most of them make for great cherry blossom viewing spots. What makes Maruyama Park stand out is that it also has close to 300 plum trees, giving you the rare treat of seeing both bloom at the same time. In spring, the city allows visitors to BBQ at the park as well. Treat yourself to Hokkaido’s popular “Genghis Khan” (lamb) on the grill as you enjoy the spring flowers.