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 May, and fortunately some of the Japan’s most iconic cities are also the best places to witness the flowering spectacle. So whether you stay in Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka, areas for cherry blossom viewing are definitely within an easy reach.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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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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.