Sakura season is already ramping up in Japan with big brands such as Starbucks and Asahi having released their sakura themed products for this spring. Although the cherry blossom front hasn’t started yet, here are my top 5 places to view the cherry blossom this spring!
5. Nakameguro , Tokyo
Nakameguro is usually just visited by those who enjoy frequenting the unique stores and boutiques it is known for. However, for one week each year, Nakameguro becomes a bustling and vibrant location to view the cherry blossoms. For over a mile along the shores of Meguro river hundreds of cherry blossoms trees and blanked, and give an amazing show! Not to be missed, especially at night, when the banks are lit and the blossom shines.
4. Nara park, Nara
More commonly known for the friendly and hungry dear, Nara park also has a stunning collection of sakura trees which looks stunning in this historic place. One of the best spots to see this blossom is right outside of Todaiji temple, the oldest wooden building in the world! Spend some time seeing the enormous Buddah and all that Todaiji has to offer and simple turn back to the building on your way out to see this view. If you are lucky you might also get to see the deer relaxing under the blossoms, enjoying their own hanami!
3. Ueno park, Tokyo
Ueno park is possibly one of the most visited hanami spots in Japan. Hanami (lit. flower viewing) is the seasonal past time of picnicking under the blossoming trees, eating food, drinking alcohol and sharing time with friends, family or co-workers. Obviously as one of the top spots Ueno park is full of sakura trees as is usually one of the places to first be in full bloom in Tokyo. Being such a popular spot Ueno has many, many street food stalls during the matsuri period, here you can enjoy sakura dango, yakisoba and chocco banana. Ueno park doesn’t have the “picture perfect views” of other top spots, but here you can truly experience a Japanese hanami!
2. Hikone castle, Shiga
Japan was once covered in castles, integral during the warring states period. Now, there are only 12 original castles left in Japan (the most famous being Himeji or Matsumoto). Hikone castle isn’t the first castle to come to mind, but is a truly stunning sakura spot, with the benefit of smaller crowds for being less well know! The top view in Hikone is the castle boat, beautifully lined with ancient cherry blossom trees. As with many locations the sakura matsuri goes ahead, and has the best mitarashi dango (three coloured rice balls on a stick) on offer. The castle is small, but looks amazing with the sakura.
My absolute favourite spot for sakura is around Kawaguchi Lake, one of the Mount Fuji 5 Lakes. What is more iconic and stunning than the gentle impermanent sakura next to the ancient and majestic Mount Fuji? I have written more about some of the best views around the lake here, but the northern shore has some of the best placed sakura to get that perfect shot! The nearby Chureito Pagoda is worth a visit too, as the view becomes even more iconic with the peace pagoda in the foreground.
It might sound like a bit of a cop out for a “top 5” but some of my favourite sakura spots are those I stumbled across when I wasn’t looking. Well trodden tourist spots such as Shinjuku park, the Philosophers path, and Himeji castle are, of course, beautiful. However, being one of only a few pairs of eyes enjoying the blossom can really enhance the experience. The joy of literally stumbling across a row of sakura trees during cherry blossom season is one of the most enjoyable aspects.
Sakura is beautiful because of its impermanence, delicacy and the gentle way the flowers nod in the wind. Sometimes it is not the carefully positioned and pruned trees that are the most beautiful, sometimes it is those simply growing and thriving where they were planted.