During cherry blossom season, most Japanese workers—even those who usually eat their meals at their desk—step out to have their lunch to enjoy sakura. Many families and couples go to parks for a picnic on weekends, but for visitors who have arrived too late to witness the short-lived blooming season in Tokyo, there are many other beautiful places in Japan to see cherry blossoms later in spring.
One of those places is the beautiful region of Nagano, famous for its breathtaking Japanese Alps and hot springs, where macaques like to warm up. Nagano is one of the most stunning prefectures in Japan and is a popular destination in winter for skiers and snowboarders. In fact, many Japanese people still go skiing in Nagano until the Golden week, which is at the end of April. Since spring comes in a lot later in these regions, cherry blossom season can be witnessed long after the flowers have fallen in Tokyo.
Hanami is the age old Japanese tradition of enjoying the temporal beauty of cherry and plum blossoms. It is a quiet moment of enjoyment and reflection on nature’s beauty. There are many popular spots for viewing sakura in Nagano like the Takato castle park, Matsumoto castle, Ueda castle, and others. However, if you want to escape the noise and enjoy the cherry blossoms all by yourself for true hanami, then head to Omachi, a small gateway town nestled in the majestic Northern Alps.
By staying in one of the local Airbnbs dotted around Omachi, you can live among the locals and enjoy sakura in peace. The only sounds you will hear is that of flowing water and birds chirping. Compared to the short visits to the park in Tokyo where everyone is taking selfies, small mountainside towns like Omachi offer a truly immersive experience into sakura season.
If you miss sakura in Omachi, then you can head further north, where sakura season takes place later in the month. Some examples of places you can go are Oide Park, Hakuba, and Nozawa. Another region that is good for viewing cherry blossoms from the end of April to the first week of May is Hokkaido.
If you are not afraid to go off-the-beaten-track, then find a small town in the mountains and explore it your way. You’ll be sure to experience the benefits of hanami.
How to get there
It takes just about 1 hour 40 minutes to drive from Tokyo to Nagano via Shinkansen. For those on a budget, it takes 2 to 4 hours to get to Nagano by bus, depending on which part you are going to.