If you’re going to travel to Japan, I highly recommend going during the sakura season which is the cherry blossom season. This probably doesn’t help to be honest as the cherry blossom season lasts a maximum of three weeks a year on average, and it can vary each year due to the seasons, weather and unpredictable Mother Nature. You’re generally looking at the end of March-April time to catch the sakura, and if you’re lucky enough then you can see it all over Japan.
The cherry blossoms are some of the most amazing sites in Japan, both from a cultural point of view and a nature point of view. The blossoms can make the dullest of streets look beautiful, and they make the parks and gardens look out of this world. It may seem like I am exaggerating, after all they are just a few flowers on some trees, but they take over Japan when they do and the whole nation get involved. During the sakura season a lot of ‘sakura chasing’ can be carried out where locals and tourists fleet the streets to find trails of blossom. You’ll see a million locals and tourists as well taking tonnes of pictures, which capture Japan in its prettiest form. Here are a few places I would recommend visiting during the sakura season, to catch the best images and the best blossom:
Tokyo – The season starts at the top of the country and works its way down, but very quickly so don’t expect a week of blossom in one city, then another week further south. If you’re starting in Tokyo then head to the Imperial Palace for a site of some of the most spectacular gardens I have ever seen with mystical lakes, waterfalls, different types of trees and of course some glorious shades of cherry blossom. Second, I would suggest heading to Shinjuku Park. At 500yen to get into the park, it won’t break the budget, and it’s a great place to have a picnic and relax among the blossom.
Kyoto – Kyoto is full of gardens and nature so it’s not hard to find a good spot near the blossom. However, I would recommend Nijo-jo Castle as there are some great views from the top of the castle but also petal soaked paths full of blossom. A second site I would suggest visiting during the sakura season is Kiyomizu-dera. Both these sites are worth visiting if in Kyoto anyway, but this particular site is right on the edge of the valley, therefore you are surrounded by trees, temples and bright pink blossom.
Osaka – Osaka isn’t the most garden filled place in Japan, but if you are visiting during the sakura season then I would recommend going to Osaka Castle as there are some great views and some slight aspect of a garden. It is also worth going round the edge of the city around the canals and rivers to catch a good blossom.
Of course the more countryside you go to, the more sakura you will see, but as these three cities tend to be the most popular backpacker attractions then these are the places I would recommend. You may find some beautiful hidden spots of your own, if so don’t keep them hidden for long.