It’s no secret that cherry blossom season, beginning at the tail end of March and hitting full bloom in mid-April, is one of the best times to visit Japan. Culture Trip and Princess Cruises have gone beyond the standard tourist routes to experience the best of sakura season with this round-up of lesser-known destinations.
Although it’s overlooked in many guidebooks, the port city of Yokohama, just south of Tokyo, is a cherry blossom hotspot. Along the photogenic bay you’ll find Sakura-Dori, a 500 metre-long walkway lined with cherry trees, with the bay on one side and the glittering lights of the Minato Mirai 21 district on the other.
If you spend a little time in the northern corners of Japan, there’s one ubiquitous figure that’s impossible to escape. In the 16th century, the powerful Date Terumune was one of Japan’s most fearless samurai leaders. During his reign, Terumune oversaw the construction and renovation of many temples. Entsuin Temple is dedicated to Terumune’s son who passed away aged 19 under mysterious circumstances – some suspect he was poisoned. On one side of the temple grounds you’ll find a classic Japanese garden, and on the other a Western rose garden.
Matsushima Bay is home to around 200 small rocky, pine tree-covered islands, making it one of Japan’s most beautiful sightseeing spots. In March and April, Matsushima Bay undergoes a transformation when its 260 cherry trees spring life, framing the wild landscape with their delicate beauty. Do as the locals do and head over to Saigyo Modoshi no Matsu Park for views overlooking the tree-covered mountainside and bay.
Niigata’s Echigo-Tsumari region is home to a huge collection of outdoor contemporary art installations, carefully designed in consideration of the local environment. They’re all over the place, both in the city center and scattered throughout the area’s green rice fields. Renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama created Tsumari in Bloom, an outdoor piece she described as “my favorite among all of the open-air sculptures that I have created”, inspired by the floral beauty of Echigo-Tsumari and its warm sunny spring days.
Located towards the tip of Japan’s main island and constructed in the early 1600s, Hirosaki Castle is one of Aomori’s most impressive historical sites and one of Japan’s best cherry blossom spots. The castle is situated in the heart of Hirosaki Park, home to an impressive 2,500 cherry trees. During sakura season, the grounds are literally carpeted in soft pink petals. They also fill the moat surrounding the castle, creating a stunning river of pink.
Chiran sits at the heart of Satsuma Peninsula in Kagoshima Prefecture. This meticulously preserved samurai district dates back over 250 years, and is open to the public. You can wander in and out of the well-maintained houses to see just how families lived at the time. Next to a number of residences, you’ll find some quintessentially Japanese gardens that look even more impressive during spring.
Lake Towada, Japan’s massive double caldera lake, was formed in the mouth of a volcano during a series of eruptions tens of thousands of years ago, and sits an astonishing 400 metres above sea level. The lake is at its best in spring and autumn when the surrounding colors of foliage are reflected in the impossibly clear waters.
Inner city Tokyo is the ideal place to visit during sakura season. It is home to countless blossom covered parks, pink cherry blossom decorations, and atmospheric festivals. Thousands head to Ueno Park and Yoyogi Park to celebrate under the trees, while vendors set up stalls along the Nakameguro River, selling sakura sweets, festival food and pink champagne in celebration. Shinjuku Gyoen garden is a popular spot for nature photographers on the hunt for that perfect shot.
Visit all these amazing destinations and more with Princess Cruises. The Grand Spring Flowers itinerary follows the cherry blossoms across Japan in one unforgettable trip.