Chase the Cherry Blossom Trail by Rail
Japan's cherry blossom season is a truly magical experience, where national parks and iconic castles are transformed by seas of pink, white and red flowers. With a Japan Rail Pass you can enjoy this breathtakingly beautiful phenomenon, while discovering the many other highlights of the land of the rising sun.
Every year in springtime Japanese locals and tourists alike come together to celebrate the arrival of these beautiful flowers with traditional viewing parties called "Hanami".
The forecast for the predicted first bloom of the season has been issued by the Japan Weather Association. We have compiled this handy guide where we outline the best places to join in the cherry blossom celebrations across Japan's four main islands and how to make the most of your journey by rail.
Being the first of the main islands to experience warmer weather, Kyushu is the place where youll start your cherry blossom rail journey. This mountainous island is filled with awe-inspiring natural beauty, from serene hot springs and enchanting ancient forests to lush, jagged coastlines and formidable volcanic peaks
Tateyama Park, a hillside park overlooking Nagasaki City, is a magical cherry blossom destination. As the cherry buds begin to bloom, the tranquil Tateyama Park becomes pink canvas. Take up a spot under one of the 700 hundred cherry trees and join in the Hanami celebrations as park transforms into the night and is lit up by impressive lights.
Shikoku is the smallest of Japans major islands and is accessible via three impressively engineered bridges from the island of Honshu (the Seto Ohashi bridge allows for travel by rail, which is included in the JR Pass).
Famed for its traditional beauty, Shikoku's major city of Matsuyama, is home to pilgrimage temples, the feudal Matsuyama Castle and Dogo Onsen, one of Japan's earliest known hot-spring spas. With grounds that are covered with around 200 flourishing cherry trees, Matsuyama Castle is one of the regions most popular spots to view blossoms. One of Japans twelve original castles, Matsuyama Castle is situated on a steep, rolling hill overlooking the city of Matsuyama and the beautiful emerald Seto Inland Sea making it the perfect natural grandstand.
Honshu is Japans largest island, and is home to the renowned, cosmopolitan cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima. Honshu is filled with so many beautiful, varied cherry blossom destinations; it can be hard to decide which ones to visit.
Mt Yoshimo (Yoshinoyama), in the Nara Prefecture is one of the standout areas for cherry blossom viewing. Quite possibly the most famous cherry blossom destinations, Mt Yoshimo is covered with around 30,000 magnificent trees. The area is divided into four sections so you can explore the city from a variety of vantage points. Typically the best time to time to visit is early to mid-April, when each of the sections are in full bloom.
Another great place to celebrate Hanami is among the extensive grounds surrounding Osaka Castle, where there are around 4,000 cherry trees. During peak Hanami season (late March to early April), Osaka Castle Park is bustling with street food vendors and local party goers. Although the park is an extremely popular destination for cherry blossom viewing, its expansive two square kilometres mean there is enough room for everyone to take in the iconic Osaka Castle and join in the festivities.
The buzzing hub of Tokyo city is dotted with spectacular viewing opportunities including the family friendly Shinjuku Gyoen and the picture perfect Chidorigafuchi Moat that surrounds the Imperial Palace. One of the citys largest and most popular spots for getting lost amongst the cherry blossom parties is Ueno Park. With over 1000 trees lining the paths throughout the park, Ueno Park's blossoms typically open 1-3 days ahead of the blossoms in other spots in the city and draws excited crowds. Ueno Park is conveniently located directly across from Ueno JR station, making it perfect for JR Pass holders.
Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's main islands is more commonly known for its volcanoes, natural hot springs and impressive ski areas. Thanks to cooler climate its cherry blossom season begins later than the rest of Japan, usually in early May.
Maruyama Park and Hokkaido Shrine in the regions largest town of Sapporo, is the areas biggest Hanami hotspot. The two attractions that sit side by side to each other are home to around 2,000 spectacular cherry trees. Take a toll along the tree lined walk ways and pick out a spot on the grounds amongst the picnic blankets to fully immerse yourself in the festivities of the regions celebrations.
Tateyama Park, a hillside park overlooking Nagasaki City, is another magical cherry blossom destination in the area. As the trees begin to bloom, the tranquil Tateyama Park becomes a pink canvas. Take up a spot under one of the 700 hundred cherry trees and join in the Hanami celebrations as the park transforms once the sun sets and the street lights come out.
A Japan Rail Pass is the most efficient and cost effective way to travel throughout Japan. The passes are available in 7, 14 and 21 day passes, allowing you to perfectly coordinate your cherry blossom viewing experience.