Flower power: Where to view cherry blossoms in Japan

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IT’S time to celebrate the coming of spring, the transience of life, the beauty of the cherry blossoms, which the Japanese call the sakura.

Here’s where to go for the best hanami (flower-viewing) spots in each Japanese region.

Kyushu – Kumamoto

Best time to visit: End of March to early April

For a different take on the sakura season, visit a magnificent old tree in Minamiaso-mura, Kumamoto.

Known as Isshingyo no O-Zakura (‘O-zakura’ means big cherry tree), the tree has been around for more than 400 years. Legend has it the descendants of a feudal warlord returned to this place after his defeat to plant sakura seeds.

The tree stands alone by a field of golden rape blossoms, which makes for an interesting contrast.

Shikoku – Hirakiyama Park

Best time to visit: Early to mid-April

The tourist highlights at Japan’s fourth largest island, Shikoku, include Naoshima (the art island) and a town named Naruto.

However, for the best hanami experience, make your way to the top of Mount Hirakiyama in Ehime.

On top of the mountain lies an observation deck nearly 500 feet (152.4m) above sea level, where your view of the Seto Inland Sea will be famed by more than a thousand cherry trees blooming in unison. Plus, the park is open at night.

Chugoku – Miyajima

Best time to visit: Early April

Located an hour away from Hiroshima via ferry, Miyajima is most famous for its huge red torii gate that seems to float on the water during high tide.

While the small island has attractions such as the Itsukushima Shrine, an aquarium as well as pagodas, the best time to visit Miyajima would be during the sakura season, when the island bursts into bloom.

Kansai – Mount Yoshino

Best time to visit: Early to mid-April

Formerly the political centre of Japan, Kansai is home to some of the most notable cities in Japan such as Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Kobe.

It also has some of the most beautiful sakura spots such as Himeji (a town with a feudal castle), Hirano Shrine in Kyoto, and even the Osaka Castle in Osaka.

However, the crown goes to Mount Yoshino in Nara prefecture.

Imagine a sea of cherry trees (more than 30, 000 of them) planted along the slopes leading up to the mountain.

SEE ALSO: Popular Kyoto temple bans photography during peak autumn season

Chubu – Yamazaki River

Best time to visit: Early April

While Nagoya Castle and Inuyama Castle has some gorgeous lesser-seen cherry tree varieties on its castle grounds, Chubu’s best cherry blossom viewing spot is along the Yamazaki river, designated as one of Japan’s 100 best cherry blossom viewing spots.

We recommend you take a stroll along the Yamazaki river for a view of cherry trees in full majestic bloom.

Kanto – Tokyo

Missing the beauties of Japan and Sakura season #Japan #uenopark #cherryblossomseason #sakura #paradise

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Best time to visit: Late April to early May

One of the most industrialised regions of Japan, Kanto, is also rich in hot springs (Izu in Shizuoka) and historical sights (Kamakura), all which feature very unique views of sakura.

However, as Tokyo is located in Kanto, we’ve decided to include one of the most famous sakura viewing spots in the country: Ueno Park – an incredible sight of 800 cherry trees lining a pathway, forming a tunnel awash in pale pink blossoms.

It is also one of the most crowded hanami spots in Tokyo, so get there early.

Bonus: take a trip out to the northern shores of Fuji Five Lakes for a view of Mount Fuji, framed by sakura.

Tohoku – Kakunodate

そろそろ櫻の季節だな~😍😍😍 #tohoku #sakura #spring #akita #kakunodate

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Best time to visit: Late April to early May

Located up north on Japan’s largest island Honshu, Tohoku is known for its countryside and hot springs.

One of its most famous hanami spot is Kakunodate, a former samurai town founded in 1620. Make a pilgrimage here for the special combination of cherry trees and samurai architecture.

Kakunodate’s signature blossom is the shidarezakura, also known as weeping cherry trees, where branches bearing the blooms fall like those of a weeping willow.

Hokkaido – Hakodate

Best time to visit: Early to mid-May

As the northernmost island in Japan, Hokkaido enjoys the unique status of having the last sakura bloom at long last after a long winter. So, if you’ve missed the earlier sakura blooms in Tokyo, head on over to Hokkaido.

While there are plenty of stunning spots to view them, we recommend you check out Fort Goryokaku.

The Western-style former-citadel-turned-public-park sports a few tourist attractions such as the Goryokaku Tower and former Hokkaido Magistrate Office. However, most importantly, it has more than a thousand cherry trees (of the delicate Somei Yoshino variety) planted along its moats.