On a cherry blossom trail in Japan

Traveldine takes you to magnificent regions that are home to Sakura or Cherry Blossom trees, to help you plan your 2022 rendezvous with the fragrant pink-coloured flowers.
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Image courtesy Kat Jyne, Yuri Yuhara and Taryn Elliott, Pexels.

The enduring motif of springtime in Japan, which lasts till the end of May, is the resplendent, candy pink-coloured cherry blossoms that blanket the beautiful country in their soft pink splendour. The season’s first flowers bloom in Kyushu, in southwestern Japan in March, and then advances northward. From Nara, Kyoto, Tokyo and Hiroshima in March, to Akita and Aomori in April, and Kushiro in May, these delicate cherry blossom flowers, poised against brilliant blue skies, manifests spring in Japan.

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Lesser-known fact: Cherry blossoms aren’t all of the same variety. The most common trees are Somei-Yoshino, with masses of pale pink blossoms. Then there is the elegant Shidare-Zakura, or the popular weeping cherry tree (its cascading tree branches droop down low), which grows along riverbanks. 

Traveldine presents a trail through Japan’s cherry blossom country.

Nara Park

Nara park japan
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The parks, shrines and temples in Nara mark the arrival of spring with cherry blossom in full bloom. Nara Park, famous for its deer, is home to about 1700 cherry trees. The atmospheric Koriyama Castle ruins are overrun by cherry blossoms. On the edge of the grass-covered hill, Wakakusayama, behind Nara Park, is a hiking trail overhung by the Sakura trees. 

Kyoto Hirano Shrine

Kyoto hirano shrine
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In Kyoto’s Hirano Shrine, the blooming of the Sakigake-Zakura, a cherry blossom variety that originated at the shrine, indicates the beginning of the Hanami (cherry blossom) season. There are over 60 varieties planted on the grounds, which bloom at different times. The sprawling Kyoto Botanical Gardens is home to 450 cherry blossom trees, extending north of the conservatory. The World Heritage Site of Nijo Castle, constructed during the Edo period (between 1603 and 1868, when the country was under a military government), has over 300 cherry blossom trees in 50 varieties that bloom in succession on the castle grounds. The tree-lined avenues are fragrant with the delicate scent of cherry blossom.

Kyoto takase river
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Right along the Takase River on Kiyamachi Street are cherry blossoms trees with picturesque viewpoints at several crossing points. At night, they are illuminated, making for a wonderful experience.

Inokashira Park, Tokyo

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With around 500 cherry blossom trees and a crystal clear blue lake, Inokashira Park is a favourite Sakura-watching spot in Tokyo. The park was built by Japan’s imperial family for its people. There is a huge concentration of Sakura or cherry blossom trees around the lake. Their branches hang across the lake surface, the flowers sparkling in the morning sun in the water they have fallen into. During the cherry blossom season, visitors stretch out mats and relax under the trees, armed with their picnic baskets.

Ashino Park, Aomori

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The northernmost prefecture on Japan’s main island of Honshu is swathed in pink blossoms of cherry trees by the end of April. Ashino Park is home to a rail line, Lake Ashino, several walking trails, camping grounds, a hanging bridge, the Dazai Osamu Monument, and, of course, the cherry blossom trees, almost 1500 of them. Take a ride in the orange retro-looking train that leaves an old station building of the Tsugaru Railway, and revel in the beauty of the flowers as the train chugs through a cherry blossom-ed landscape.

Nikkō Kaidō

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Nikkō Kaidō is one of the five routes built during the Edo era to connect Edo (modern-day Tokyo) with the temple-shrine complex of Mangan-ji and Tōshōsha (now called the Rinnō-ji and Tōshōgū), which are located in the city of Nikkō.

The Nikkō Kaido Sakura Route is a scenic drive amongst 1500 cherry blossom trees. The neighbourhood is dotted with World Heritage temples and small shrines overhung with pretty branches of the Sakura trees, a perfect spot for walking. Several restaurants in Nikkō serve special dishes that are only available during the Sakura season. At Kinugawa Onsen and Okunikko, the springtime bloom is a lavish spectacle and can be best enjoyed on scenic riverboat rides or in the evenings, when the trees are illuminated.

Himeji Castle

Himeji castle
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From late March to mid-April, the cherry blossom trees on the Himeji Castle grounds transform the famous castle into one of Japan’s premier cherry blossom viewing spots. Built in 1333, Himeji Castle is also called the Hakuro-jo or Shirasagi-jo (often referred to as the White Egret Castle or White Heron Castle for its white exterior and appearance of a bird taking flight)A moat surrounds the castle, and locals as well as tourists can be seen sailing down the lake in a rowboat skillfully steered by a boatman across the water that serenely laps up against the white façade wall, with cherry blossom vines languidly hanging across its surface.

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