Hanami in Japan: Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan

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Hanami in Japan — if you’re looking for the best places to see cherry blossoms in Japan, then we have more than a few tips to share with you. We lived in Japan for 13 years and return regularly to visit family and friend. Spring is my favorite season in the country. Why? Hanami in Japan. I’ve written about the best places to see cherry blossoms in Japan before, but that was based around Tokyo. Here you’ll find even more of the best places to see cherry blossoms in Japan. Read on for tips on hanami in Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Hiroshima, Nagano and more.

osaka castle sakura hanami Hanami in Japan: Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan

Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan

The following in an excerpt from Child’s Play, my column in the Japan Times newspaper (I’ve been writing for the JT since 2001).

This post is about hanami in Kansai (Western Japan). I wrote about hanami in Tokyo as well, and all of those places I still recommend. Keep reading for some of the best places to see cherry blossoms in Kyoto, the best places to see cherry blossoms in Osaka, the best places to see cherry blossoms in Hiroshima, the best places to see cherry blossoms in Nara, the best places to see cherry blossoms in Kobe, and the best places to see cherry blossoms in Nagano.

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Hanami in Japan: A Primer

What is hanami in Japan? You could simply call it a picnic/party under the newly-blooming sakura (cherry blossom) trees. But it’s more than that. The word hanami (花見) is best translated as “looking at flowers,” but a hanami is more of a celebration. Hanami in Japan celebrate the coming of spring, but it goes deeper.

Hanami in Japan gets to the spiritual side of the country. It addresses the brevity of life: the delicate pink petals of a sakura tree bloom beautifully….and quickly. They also fall off the tree usually in less than two weeks. For many Japanese, this represents the how brief our time on this planet is, and how we must embrace what time we have. That’s what hanami in Japan is really about.

Now, here’s the excerpt.

Go West to Enjoy a Family Hanami in Japan

osaka sakura. Hanami in Japan: Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan

At last, winter’s grip is loosening and spring in Japan is on its way. Soon cherry blossoms will explode across the archipelago, and parks around the country will be full of smiles and picnic tarps. That’s right: it’s hanami (cherry-blossom viewing) season again, Hanami in Japan — my favorite time of the year.

Like a pink wave rolling north with the warmer winds, hanami season in Japan is a special time. It’s a time to eat, drink and be merry as the tender pink petals herald a change of season. Locals and those from further afield flock to nearby sakura (cherry blossom) trees to celebrate the end of winter and the fun times to come. Hanami parties are often known for drinking and revelry, but these gatherings are also quite child-friendly. They’re a great excuse to get out of the house and start enjoying the great outdoors once again.

A few years ago, I wrote in these pages about some of the best places to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo. Those are still valid and worth a look if you’re planning a picnic in the metropolis. But the capital is not the only place, or the best, to have a hanami in Japan. There are millions of sakura trees in the country: from the islands of Okinawa to the northern reaches of Hokkaido. To try to list out all of the best places to see cherry blossoms in Japan would be an endless task.

Locals from every region of the country have their best places to see cherry blossoms. We’ll run though just a few family favorite west of the Kanto region.

KYOTO: Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan

kyoto sakura kiyomizudera. Hanami in Japan: Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan

Looking for the best places to see cherry blossoms in Kyoto? Maruyama Park is one of the most popular places to watch the pink petals fall. One reason is that if you keep partying well past dusk, you will find some of the trees are lit up at night. That includes a large and elegant shidare zakura (weeping cherry blossom tree). You’ll also find plenty of food options here, as well. Kyoto also offers temples, such as Kodaiji and Kiyomizudera, which are spectacular during the season, although finding a place to sit can be a challenge. We enjoyed our time in the west of Kyoto, near the river in Arashiyama.

NARA: Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan

nara sakura. Hanami in Japan: Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan

Not far from Kyoto is the ancient city of Nara, where Nara Park has its share of cherry blossoms. Kids may love this park more for the deer that roam around freely here. Older kids may wander off to explore, giving parents that extra moment for a quiet drink alone. That said, remember that the park deer are relatively unafraid of humans. They will not hesitate to try and nibble at of your picnic supplies.

Kyoto arashiyama sakura. Hanami in Japan: Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan

Want to read more? Want to read about hanami in Osaka, Kobe, Hiroshima and elsewhere?

Read the Entire Japan Times Column Here 

Further Reading:

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