2020 blossoms are expected from mid to late March in Kansai.
As a stop on the prized “golden-route,” Osaka is extremely popular for cherry blossom viewing. Nearby Nara with its historical shrines, and Hyogo with its stunning scenery complete the trifecta for awesome cherry blossom viewing spots. If you’re like us and absolutely loathe crowds, quiet Wakayama is also only a short ride away. Take your pick of the best spots in the Kansai region with this handy list.
This vast park, in 1970, was the home of the first world fair to be held in Asia. Today it is one of Osaka’s top spots for cherry-blossom viewing, especially during the nighttime illumination period, held in the natural and cultural gardens section, and usually accompanied by food stalls. While the esoteric Tower of the Sun statue takes center stage in the Expo Park, there are also over 5,000 cherry trees and many facilities open for daytime exploration, such as a Japanese garden and a footbath, museums and forest nature trails.
The Osaka branch of the National Mint Bureau annually opens a 560-meter cherry-lined path within its grounds for one week only. Walkthrough and enjoy the beauty of around 350 trees, but be careful—it’s strictly a one-way only path. No drinking or eating is allowed either, but the sight of the puffy blossoms, especially under the nightly illumination, makes the regimentation worthwhile. The exact dates are usually announced in mid-March. Most trees here are late-blooming, double-petal varieties and include some rare types hard to find elsewhere.
Blossoms line both sides of the Okawa River in this park that runs for four kilometers and boasts around 4,800 cherry trees. The riverside promenades are also cherry-lined, making a soft pink tunnel of blossoms accessible 24 hours. The flowers will be lit up at night during their peak week when food stalls will also be on hand. Follow the river downstream and you’ll reach the Osaka Mint Bureau on the west bank.
This park is built around the ruins of Akashi Castle. The main keep no longer exists, but two turrets remain in a garden associated with the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. With the beautiful watchtowers of the castle ruins at the center, this is a great place to picnic all year round, but springtime is extra special with around 1,000 sakura trees blooming. The park also has lots of lawn space, play equipment, rowboats and, swan-shaped pedal boats to mess around in.
Constructed in 770 by a priest from the Tang dynasty, this ancient temple is the second stop on one of Japan’s oldest pilgrimages—the Saigoku Kannon. Every spring this peaceful temple in Wakayama City gets coated in a layer of pink from hundreds of picturesque cherry trees.
About 400 cherry trees surround the lake in the middle of the park, which includes broad lawn areas, a children’s forest, a Japanese garden, and a teahouse. There are almost 1,000 cherry trees throughout the entire park, including weeping cherries that bloom about 10 days earlier than the main somei yoshino type, which is the predominant variety here.
Visit the rock garden to take in the sight and smell of an aromatic cherry variety common to Hokkaido, the chishima-zakura. Interestingly, the park is located amid the ancient Mozu burial mounds, which includes the nation’s largest keyhole-shaped tomb.
A UNESCO World Heritage site and a staple in every Japan travel guide, words can’t really do Himeji Castle the justice it deserves. Despite normally being closed at night, the castle opens the doors to the Nishinomaru Garden during cherry blossom season so everyone can gaze in awe at thousands of flowers against the graceful, white castle walls.
Weeping cherry trees in the Nishinomaru Garden are lit up at night while the castle itself is illuminated nightly until midnight. The Sannomaru area also has nice cherry-lined paths for those who prefer daytime viewing. For a unique way to enjoy the castle and the blossoms, take a boat ride around the moat.
Known throughout the world for its mountain-wide display of cherry blossoms, Mount Yoshino is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site pilgrimage route of the Kii Mountain Range. The first cherry trees on Mt. Yoshino’s slopes were planted more than 1,300 years ago. Now, the mountain is covered by around 30,000 thousand cherry trees of different varieties. The Northern facing slope is divided into four areas and you can enjoy the blossoms, shrines, and shops as you make your way through the town and up the mountain.
From Yoshino Station, you can either take a pleasant walk, or take a bus from the station, and then a cable car to the top. Visit the Hanayagura observation point for the famous panoramic view of the blooming mountain.
This park, built around a scenic valley, is located midway between the cities of Osaka and Kyoto and offers great cherry blossom viewing with an escape into nature. On the south side of this broad-ranging park is a cherry blossom garden with about 800 trees, play equipment, and lawn areas. Each year the flowers there are illuminated by paper lanterns. There are estimated to be around 3,000 cherry trees throughout the entire park, which includes a woodland hiking course and a hot spring facility.
With about 3,000 cherry trees, an annual light-up event, and the stately backdrop of Osaka Castle, this is the place for cherry-viewing parties. Among the vast grounds, Nishinomaru Garden is a must for the roughly 300 cherry trees that are illuminated there. The castle is also famous for its plum blossoms, which flower from late January through to March. Check out the late-blooming double-petal yaezakura cherry trees to the south of the plum grove, too.
About 800 cherry trees line the moat of this pretty little (reconstructed) castle. Over 300,000 visitors come here to take in the fantasy atmosphere and beauty of the blossoms as they are illuminated by 600 lanterns. From an outlook on the ruins of the castle tower, you can see the pink clouds of blossom below. Another key view is the contrast between the hard, dark 400-year old stone garden walls and the soft flower petals. To make the most of this, enter via the beautiful Ote gate and take the long route through the grounds.
Contest details coming soon! In the meantime check the hashtag #GaijinPotSakura on Instagram to see last year’s entries.