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Japan is a country that never ceases to amaze me. How a country manages to blend ancient culture with modernity is truly remarkable. It is a nation which makes you feel alive through its vibrant man-made and natural colours.

And one of the most colorful seasons in Japan is Hanami; a season where the country’s famous cherry blossoms put on a spectacular show, a show cherished by tourists and locals alike. Groups gather in city parks to bathe in the pink atmosphere of the flowering cherry and plum trees, and spring parties are thrown which can last well into the night.

The Hanami season begins in March and lasts until late May, and fortunately, some of Japan’s most iconic cities are also the best places to witness the flowering spectacle. But the cherry blossoms are fleeting, and most cities only offer a short window of 2-3 weeks (you can check online flower forecasts to find peak viewing times across the country).

We therefore decided it was best to head on an organized tour. And the great thing for anyone wishing to catch the cherry blossoms, is that Luxury Escapes often offers 40% off the tour we chose.

Discover Japan’s Most Iconic Cities and Scenic Countryside with a Hanami Tour

The following cities and regions of Japan make the perfect itinerary for enjoying the cherry blossom season, and the following is an overview of what you can expect from a tour with Luxury Escapes.

Our time in Japan was outstanding, and this is an experience we can highly recommend.

DEAL SOLD OUT. This tour is the highlights of Japan exciting 8 day adventure, staying in first class accommodation, round-trip economy-class airfares, internal transfers, the services of an English-speaking guide and more.

All this and more for just $2999 per person (twin share), valued at $4999. ➡ Check Availability

Tokyo

Japan’s capital is one of the most energetic and lively cities in the world. It is a remarkable feat considering it has had to rebuild from major earthquakes and the ravages of war. More than just a massive concrete jungle, it is revitalized through numerous parks and gardens which are perfect for cherry blossom viewing during Hanami season.

Explore the vibrant street art and fashions of the Harajuku neighbourhood or experience the craziness of Tsukiji fish market, the world’s largest. Get lost on the trails of Rikugien Gardens which is by far Tokyo’s most beautiful and recreates numerous scenes from famous poems.

Head to Ueno Park to witness the traditional favourite spot of cherry blossom viewing, offering a stunning pink archway. Megurogawa is a beautiful place to see the trees at night as they are lit up and the dazzling light is reflective off the area’s canal.

Be sure to check out the Eiffel Tower looking Tokyo Tower which houses great museums and galleries. The area is also home to several Buddhist temples, and did we mention Disneyland?

The Tokyo Dome Hotel is situated perfectly in the city to take full advantage of all its tourist attractions. With 11 onsite bars and restaurants and killer elevated views over Tokyo it’s our favorite hotel, and an example of the first class accommodation you can expect on this tour.

Japan's Cherry Blossom Festival, Hanami

Chidori-ga-fuchi, Kitanomaru Park at Chiyoda-ku in Tokyo

Nara & Osaka

Nara is dear to me, and not just because of its large wild sika deer population that roam freely through Nara Park in search of deer crackers fed to them by tourists and locals. The park is also home to the Todaiji Temple where you can witness a massive 15 metre tall Buddha in the world’s largest wooden building known as Daibutsuden.

Also worth a visit is Kasuga Grand Shrine in Nara along with the surrounding Kasugayama Primeval Forest which contains a unique type of white sakura, or cherry blossom.

Like a scene straight out of a fairy tale, Osaka Castle with its surrounding moat and cherry blossoms are a favourite during Hanami season. The castle has been destroyed and rebuilt over the last 400+ years, surviving fires, war, and typhoons. Check out the castle’s museum where you can try on samurai gear or simply relax in the castle’s park amongst the blossoming trees where you’ll also find a lovely tea house.

A stay at Osaka’s Star Gate Hotel Kansai will allow you to get your shopping fix at the within-walking-distance shopping complexes of Rinku Pleasure Town Seacle and Rinku Premium Outlet. Sample Osaka’s lively nightlife and large variety of street vendors.

Like a scene straight out of a fairy tale, Osaka Castle with its surrounding moat and cherry blossoms are a favourite during Hanami season.

Hanami in the Maruyama Park

Kyoto

Kyoto is one of the prettiest cities in Japan, home to vibrant gardens, temples, shrines, and age old traditions. The city offers incredible viewing of Hanami whether it be in Maruyama Park, Yasaka Shrine, or the Kyoto Botanical Garden.

More than just pretty petal viewing, the city offers the new-world-wonder contender Kiyomizu-dera Temple which was built in the 8th century and is perched upon a cliff. Head to its Otowa waterfall which is said to have the power of granting even the most extravagant of wishes.

A walk through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a must as no photo is worthy of the feeling you get from standing beneath these towering natural poles. The area is more than just bamboo, offering the Iwatayama Monkey Park where you can witness Japanese Macaques. The entire region screams authentic Japan.

A quick stop by the Nishijin Textile Center will introduce you to the world of the kimono, a traditional Japanese garment. They offer kimono fashion shows which don’t last very long and it makes a great break from temple and shrine viewing.

Stay just outside the city of Kyoto in the town of Otsu where you can enjoy incredible views of Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake, from the Biwako Hotel. The hotel offers relaxing indoor and open air onsen or hot spring bathing facilities.

Pagoda at Sunset, Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto, Japan

It is a beautiful forest with a path through its heart. It is located right beside Tenryuji, a world heritage Zen Temple.

Mount Fuji

Nothing makes a more stunning photo than vibrant pink cherry trees against the backdrop of Mount Fuji, Japan’s largest mountain and active volcano. Add a pagoda in the foreground and you have yourself the ultimate postcard shot.

Hakone is a mountainous town with stunning views of Mount Fuji. Lake Ashi provides beautiful boat tours and the area is also known for numerous hot springs. A visit to Hakone Peace Park will provide you with a white as snow stupa which is a mound like structure used for meditation by Buddhists. The Park has unobstructed views of Mount Fuji on clear days.

Learn everything there is to know about Mount Fuji at the Fujisan World Heritage Centre where you will also be rewarded with more great views of the impressive volcano.

Oshino Hakkai makes a great stop to stroll around its 8 koi filled ponds, all set to the backdrop of Mount Fuji. The area is a wonderful place to try traditional Japanese cuisine as well as load up on souvenirs.

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OUR FAVORITE GUIDES TO JAPAN: CLICK PHOTO TO LOOK INSIDE↓

Japan travel guide

Lonely Planet Japan

Japan travel guide

DK Eyewitness Japan

Japan travel guide

National Geographic

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

If you enjoy getting social, you can follow their journey on FacebookTwitterYouTubePinterest and Instagram.

Photo credits: Featured photo & pinterest image by Yoshikazu TAKADA. Mt Fuji by Reginald Pentinio. Tokyo photos by Reginald Pentinio & Yoshikazu TAKADA. Kyu-Goryo-Tei, Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokyo by Reginald Pentinio. Osaka Castle by James Gochenouer. Hanami in the Maruyama Park by Japanexperterna via Flickr. Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto by Marco Crupi. Sagano Bamboo Grove by november-13. Mt Fuji Pinterest image Reginald Pentinio.

    46 Comments

  1. The cherry blossom really is quite out of this world isn’t it! I had no idea that Japan had its own Disneyland though!

    I haven’t been to Japan – hopefully I will get the chance to visit sooner rather than later.

    • It does indeed – I first visited Japan when I was 15, and Disneyland was my favorite bit lol!!

      But yes, the cherry blossoms are absolutely stunning, and it’s definitely a spectacle worthy of the bucketlist! Hope you have the opportunity to visit soon!

  2. It looks too beautiful to be true! I’d love to visit Japan during that time and of course… hike to the top of Mount Fuji!

    Miguel.

    • Doesn’t it!! I can highly recommend it, and you’ll not be disappointed with Mt Fuji – it’s quite epic!

  3. Those cherry blossom trees are just beyond pretty! I’d love to be in Japan to see them all in bloom. I’d absolutely include Osaka and Kyoto on my itinerary, but I hadn’t heard of Nara. Nara Park and the 15-foot tall Buddha, along with feeding the deer, have my name written all over them. Of course, Mount Fuji is a must, too! My goodness, I’m wondering why on Earth I haven’t been to Japan yet!

    • You would fall in love with Japan Jackie! Glad we could set you up with some itinerary suggestions – hope you have the opportunity to travel soon!

  4. I am completely swooning over your photos, particularly the ones from Nara & Osaka. Cherry blossoms certainly hold a certain kind of magic – maybe because they look like pink snow? Who knows. I’m so glad you got to experience Hanami, as well as so many of the other beautiful sights and experiences each of those cities has to offer. Wonderful writeup!

    • Thanks Meagan! So glad you enjoyed the post, and I hope you have the chance to experience Hanami yourself too! There really is something about cherry blossoms which is just spellbinding – I don’t know what it is!

  5. Hi Meg,

    Beautiful.

    Japan is one of those few places on earth that melds stunning natural beauty with equally stunning modern marvels. Most countries get it wrong; they may have some awesome natural beauty but go way overboard with its major cities, and even with smaller towns.

    Japan really does have it all. The country is relatively small too so you can see a great portion of the place without spending months there.

    Hanami has always fascinated me. Definitely a great time to visit to see those cherry blossoms blooming.

    Thanks for the cool share Meg.

    Ryan

    • Hi Ryan, so glad you enjoyed the post!

      Totally agree with you that Japan succeeds in achieving an incredible balance of nature with man made wonders where most country’s don’t.

      I’ll be heading back in a month’s time, and can’t wait – sad that it won’t be Hanami again though!!

      Hope you have the opportunity to visit during season one of these years 🙂

  6. I would truly love to go to Japan during this time of the year. Hanami season seems the one period everyone wants to go and so I can truly see why it’s useful to go with a tour. Even though I travel a lot individually, a guide can always tell you so much more than you’d even find out by yourself and show you some exclusive places you would never have heard of before. Unfortunately I’m in New Zealand early 2018 but maybe for the nexy year 😉

    • I’m right there with you – we’re all for independent travel, but have really come to appreciate the benefit of a tour. As you said, having the local insight of a guide can be invaluable 🙂

      NZ is an incredible country too – you’ll have such a fab time! Maybe Japan the year after 😀

  7. You’ve pretty much covered everywhere and everything I want to see in Japan! 😀 It’s always been a dream to visit during cherry blossoms season, but guess I’ve already missed that this year. Oh well, I’ll have to make sure Japan is on the list for next year’s hanami season. 🙂

    • Great minds must think alike :D! Definitely if you’re able to set some time aside in March – May next year, consider Japan for Hanami – definitely deserving of the bucketlist!

  8. Sounds like the perfect tour! I was in Japan this May and was so disappointed to have missed the Cherry Blossoms. I went to all the cities you’ve mentioned above but it was too late 🙁 I can see how these places look so much prettier with the beautiful pink colours of the cherry blossoms.

    • It is! Sorry to hear that you missed it this year – though definitely a great excuse to plan a return!

  9. I have never heard of such tours but visited Japan in february and sadly missed out. I had no expectations of Japan and fell in love so would love to return to do something like this. Beautiful photos too

    • So glad to hear that you fell in love with Japan Anne – definitely a country which will do that to you! I can highly recommend a return during March – May for Hanami – and if you’re looking for something organized, the Luxury Escapes tour is a great one 🙂

  10. We were so lucky to our trip to Japan coincided with peak bloom. We live in DC so cherry blossoms are nothing new to us, but the beauty of the season in a japan cannot be understated.

    • I’ve heard some wonderful things about the cherry blossoms in DC too, though not witnessed it myself (yet). How awesome that your trip to Japan coincided with peak bloom – great timing!

  11. I always love seeing the cherry blossoms in Washington DC and have wanted to see them in Japan for years. This tour with Luxury Escapes covers three of the places in Japan I’ve always wanted to visit(Tokyo, Kyoto and Mt.Fuji) and that 40% off deal is too good to pass up!

    • I’ve heard many amazing things about the Cherry blossoms in DC as well, though haven’t yet been. Can highly recommend Japan though – and Luxury Escapes is great – jump on the deal while it lasts, sound like the tour has everything you’re looking for 🙂

  12. I’ve also wanted to go to Japan and I’m often in awe of pictures on blogs and Instagram during Cherry Blossom Season. Love this itinerary, the pictures are stunning – I especially want to do that canoeing in the river in Tokyo! Definitely in wanderlust!

    • Time to start planning a trip for next March – May then :D!

  13. I didn’t know Tokyo has the world’s largest fish market! How cool is that? I also had no idea the viewing period for cherry blossoms was so short! 😱

    I’d still love to visit Japan even outside of the cherry blossom season. That’s awesome that the Luxury Escapes tour includes flight! That can be such a big hassle on top of planning everything out. I’ll reference this post when I’m ready to go!

    • It does indeed! A very cool experience – highly recommend getting there early for the tuna auction!

      And yes, the cherry blossom bloom only last for a short 3 weeks or so, so definitely recommend some prior planning so you don’t miss out.

      That said, you’ll have a great time in Japan regardless of the time of year, it’s a great destination outside of cherry blossom season too. But a great excuse to plan a trip with the Luxury Escapes discount – includes everything for you, you just need to pack your bags and go!

  14. It’s sad that we were not able to see Japan during Hanami when we last went there. Airline tickets are pricey because people want to see the cherry blossoms! Nara is, yes, agreed beautiful. It was beautiful when we went there and it wasn’t Hanami season. I could only imagine how much more amazing it would be with cherry blossoms. The pictures help with the visualization!

    • Yes, more expensive everything is definitely one issue with traveling for a peak season like Hanami – so can highly recommend taking advantage of the Luxury Escapes discount if it’s something you’re thinking about next year. Great way to secure some savings straight up 🙂

      Totally agree though that Japan is beautiful at all times of year. Hope you have the chance to see the Cherry Blossoms if you head back one year!

  15. Hanami is one of the Japanese most loved seasons. They have the custom to drink under the cherry tree and adore the beauty of this wonder lovely tree. For most Japanese, it’s an activity they shouldn’t miss every year as it brings them bliss. Cherry blossom is so pretty! Nara is a wonderful city, isn’t it? The deers there are so respectful and polite that they first bow before asking for foods! I especially love Kyoto! xx

    • Thanks for sharing about the Hanami traditions of drinking underneath a cherry tree 🙂 Totally agree that the cherry blossoms are just the prettiest thing!

      Nara has to be one of my favorite spots in Japan – one of my fondest memories. So glad you had a fabulous time too!

  16. I’ve heard so much about the cherry blossoms in Japan. Even in movies, they look so great. However, the 2-3 week window worries me. I might either miss it or be able to go to places which are already overflowing with tourists. Going on a tour indeed seems best as you’ll be sure to see everything you want in a limited time. I would love to go to Mount Fuji too and that bamboo grove looks gorgeous!

    • Yes it’s a very short window of opportunity to view them, and unfortunately the tourists during this season aren’t something you can completely avoid. But it’s such a magical atmosphere, and the vibe is incredible – everyone out celebrating the season!

      Can definitely recommend a tour though, you can benefit from the local knowledge of a guide and really get as much as you can out of the limited time.

      Hope you have the chance to travel soon!

  17. Oh my gosh, what fantastic travel ideas you’ve listed. Visiting Japan during cherry blossom season is one of those iconic trips that I’d love to do. I’ve been to Ueno Park in Tokyo but I had no idea it was a cherry blossom viewing park of choice. Clearly I’ve only gone in the wrong seasons. Kyoto is so on my list, too, and I can’t imagine how great it would be to see during spring.

    • So glad you enjoyed the suggestions Carol! If you enjoyed Ueno Park, you should see it during the cherry blossoms – it’s magical – totally transformed!

      Honestly I don’t think there’s such thing as a wrong season in Japan – it’s pretty incredible all year round! But if you haven’t taken in the cherry blossoms yet, you have a great excuse for a return trip!

  18. This tour sounds great. While I’ve been to all of the cities you’ve mentioned, I was only able to experience hanami in Tokyo. Unfortunately it was pretty rainy and cold while I was there for hanami season, but it was still incredibly enjoyable. I was there for school, so I didn’t have the luxury to wander vary far from Tokyo, but I would love to go back and just chase cherry blossoms across the country. I’ll definitely have to look into that tour so I can get the full experience next time.

    • Sorry to hear that it was rainy and cold on your first trip – excuse to head back though right!

      The first time I visited Tokyo was also with school – went on a year 9 language trip with my high school, it was incredible! But so nice heading back as an adult to have that freedom and flexibility 😀

      Hope you do have the opportunity to head back soon – and can highly recommend a tour with Luxury Escapes 🙂

  19. What a fantastic read about the different major cities in Japan. Of course, it all starts with the Cherry Blossom season (thanks for teaching me the Japanese term -Hanami). Mt Fuji is one place that is on my list. I’d love to wander amongst the tall trees. In terms of getting around, how did you communicate? Is English widely spoken across the country? Regardless, Japan is at the top of my list of countries to visit.

    • Glad you enjoyed it Rosemary! And psyched that you learnt a little Japanese – “Cherry blossoms” is definitely more widely known than the term Hanami, but I like using the Japanese 🙂

      English is pretty well understood these days, especially among the younger generation. Though there’s still a reasonable language barrier among the older generation. In that sense it’s great to take an organized tour which includes an English translator, because it makes communication a whole lot easier.

      Can highly recommend Japan – it’s absolutely incredible!

  20. Ohhhhhh! I want to visit Japan so bad! This tour sounds perfect and the images of the cherry blossoms are beautiful. I really want to visit Kyoto and walk through the bamboo forest

    • Sounds like the Luxury Escapes tour would be the perfect combination for you – jump on the discount before the deal expires 🙂

  21. I actually never knew there was an actual name for cherry blossom season. I always assumed it was just spring. Hanami is my dream time to get to Japan. I also didn’t know Mt. Fuji was an active volcano! I’ve learned so much here! I would definitely still hike to the top though. What a great discount for this tour too!

    • There is indeed! “Cherry blossoms” is definitely more widely known than the term Hanami, but I like using the Japanese 🙂

      So glad you learned a lot from the post – Mt Fuji is an incredible spot – can highly recommend a trip when you visit Japan. If you have April – May next year free, it’s a great discount on the Luxury Escapes tour 🙂

  22. I have only been to Japan once and I would love to return during Hanami – the pink cherry blooms and petal-covered pathways looks spectacular. I didn’t realize that the window is only 2-3 weeks long.
    Thank you for sharing all of the travel ideas for Japan. I really wanted to visit Nara when we were in Osaka – I love that the deer are cherished. We have deer where I live and the municipality culls them – it’s heartbreaking.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Nancy! And that you had a fabulous time on your first trip. The cherry blossoms are just magical, so if you do decide to head back, highly recommend Hanami / spring 🙂 Yes, it’s a very short window though for the actual bloom – but the online calendars are pretty accurate in terms of giving you a timeframe each year.

      So sad to hear that your local council culls the deer 🙁 I think you would find Nara to be a very special place.

  23. I am always so amazed by Japan, too! It’s such a fascinating country. The end of our trip ended up being the very beginning of the Hanami season, so it was fun to see everything start to bloom. It would be so lovely to see the trees during full bloom though too sometime! Good idea on going with a tour to see Hanami—they did a wonderful job of including some really amazing experiences! Nara sounds so fun with the wild deer population. I would love to check that spot out sometime for sure. Visiting Mount Fuji is high on our list for our next visit to Japan. We were able to catch a few glimpses of the mountain, but would love to climb it next time!

    • Awesome that you caught Hanami Jenna! Isn’t is spectacular! And if you have the chance to head back, seeing it in full bloom is pretty special.

      Hiking Mt Fuji would be incredible – how many people can say they’ve hiked to the top of an active volcano right! Sounds like it’s going to be a pretty awesome return trip for you 🙂

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