5 best but underrated destinations in Japan to view cherry blossoms

The cherry blossom season is a big celebration in Japan and sees people gathering under the blooms for food, drinks, songs, companionship and the beauty of the sakura. Source: Shutterstock.

CHERRY BLOSSOM SEASON in Japan is an age-old tradition and one of the biggest highlights of the year for the country.

Locals and tourists alike flock to the country in droves to witness the blooming of cherry blossoms and have social events under the sakura trees, otherwise known as hanami.

So don’t be surprised to find tens of thousands of people in the cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka every year.

Some may argue that the cities as mentioned above have become very touristy and therefore overrated, perhaps due to having to battle with the crowds for a picnic spot and a nice Instagram post. To ease your cherry blossom viewing burdens, here are five lesser-known destinations in Japan to witness the beautiful spring flowers.

Fukuoka Prefecture

Located on Japan’s main island of Kyushu, the Fukuoka Prefecture was formed from a castle town. Although modern-day Fukuoka is known for its elaborate float races during the Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival, it’s also a perfect place to visit during the cherry blossom season. The city has over a thousand sakura trees of different varieties, including the weeping cherry and the Oshima cherry. Head on over to Nishi Park, grab some yakitori chicken skewers and sake, pick a spot, and have a picnic while taking in the view of the flowers. You can also choose to indulge in the many local ramen shops nearby for a truly immersive and unforgettable Japanese vacation.

Date: Late March to early April.

Hyōgo Prefecture

Hyōgo is a prefecture in the Kansai region, and home to Kobe. The city boasts a busy Chinatown as well as upscale shops and waterfront views, and also perfect spots for cherry blossoms viewing. The famous Shukugawa Park along Shukugawa river, in particular, is a beautiful location to admire the season. Whip out your camera and go trigger-happy snapping shots of the river with the cherry blossom canopy overhead. Once you’re done spamming Instagram with pretty pictures, pick up some Japanese drinks and snacks at the plethora of stalls nearby. After that, hit up any one of the local steakhouses to savor the area’s signature Kobe beef.

Date: Late March to early April.

Kanagawa Prefecture

Kanagawa is a coastal prefecture just south of Tokyo, and also the place to be for one of the finest cherry blossoms in the region. The prefecture’s Mitsuike Park (three ponds park) is famous for its 1,600 cherry blossom trees including 78 varieties spread around the park. Let’s not forget the annual Ookagawa Sakura Festival, which features almost 600 cherry trees nestled alongside the Ookagawa River. Spend a weekend there to indulge in the sights, sounds, and gorge on delicious Japanese cuisine at the street food stalls while you’re at it.

Date: Late March to early April.

Hiroshima Prefecture

An atomic bomb may have largely destroyed Hiroshima during World War II, but today, it’s a mesmerizing historical site dotted with ruins to visit. During the cherry blossom seasons, Hiroshima’s Hijiyama Park bursts into blooms with large clusters of sakura trees. In fact, there are about 1,300 trees planted in small pockets around the park. Lay your mat on the ground and bask in the various shades of pink while feasting on local snacks. After you’re done, head on over to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to check out the ruins of Genbaku Dome, one of the few buildings that were left standing near ground zero.

Date: Late March to early April.

Hokkaido Prefecture

The northernmost of Japan’s main islands, Hokkaido is known for its volcanoes, onsen (natural hot springs), ski areas, and a popular destination among the locals for the cherry blossom season. One of the most amazing places to visit during the season is the Maruyama Park, home to the Hokkaido Shrine as well as the Maruyama Zoo, the oldest zoo in Hokkaido with over 150 different species to see. Take a stroll in the park to witness over 1,700 wild cherry trees in full bloom and then make it a point visit the Maruyama Zoo after for a fulfilling day out.

Date: Early May.