Hokkaido's hidden hanami: Discover Japan's serene cherry blossom havens

Hokkaido’s cherry blossom season is from late April to mid-May. The wave moves from south to north, and peak viewing time varies across the island
Sakura in Matsumae
Sakura in Matsumae

As winter fades away and spring approaches, Japan eagerly awaits the annual delight of cherry blossoms, or sakura, unfurling their delicate petals across the landscape. For countless travel enthusiasts, the dream of experiencing Japan’s iconic ‘hanami’ (flower viewing) comes alive during this time.

While cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka are cherished for their sakura viewing, head to Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, for a serene and tranquil alternative. You can embrace the essence of spring without the usual hustle and bustle.

Sakura in Matsumae
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Hokkaido’s cherry blossom season is from late April to mid-May. The wave moves from south to north, and peak viewing time varies across the island: Hakodate and Matsumae bloom in late April, Sapporo peaks from early to mid-May, and further east, cherry blossoms can be enjoyed until early June. Whether you’re a seasoned traveller or a first-time visitor to Japan, Hokkaido’s hidden hanami gems will surely captivate you with their beauty and tranquillity.

Matsumae Castle, located in the picturesque town of Matsumae, has an impressive collection of over 10,000 cherry trees, featuring as many as 250 varieties. This stunning sight allows visitors to experience the beauty of nature in all its glory. The castle’s rich historical ambience, combined with the annual Matsumae Sakura Festival held in late April, make for an unforgettable experience.

If you are looking for a more family-friendly site, head to Hakodate Park, located at the foot of the magnificent Mount Hakodate. It is home to around 360 cherry blossom trees, with the Somei Yoshino variety being the most prominent.

Nestled amid the ancient and historic Goryokaku Fort ruins, Goryokaku Park is a breathtaking location to enjoy the cherry blossom season. The park boasts an impressive array of approximately 1,600 sakura trees arranged in a unique star-shaped formation, providing visitors with a captivating experience. If you want to take your cherry blossom viewing to the next level, climb the nearby 107-metre-high Goryokaku Tower and treat yourself to a panoramic view of the cherry blossoms and the stunningly beautiful surrounding landscape.

The Sapporo region is perfect for urban sakura escapes. Maruyama Park, with its approximately 160 cherry blossom trees, is a popular destination for sakura viewing among locals. Nearby, Hokkaido Jingu Shrine is another famous spot for sakura viewing, with cherry blossoms and plum flowers flourishing side by side. Nakajima Park, situated in the heart of Sapporo, boasts around 400 cherry blossom trees and provides various picturesque viewing spots. The park’s diverse landscapes offer a captivating setting for sakura enthusiasts, with cherry blossoms set against the backdrop of a serene blue pond.

Sakura in Matsumae
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Temiya Park, located atop a picturesque hill in the northern part of Otaru, boasts breathtaking views of over 700 cherry blossom trees that overlook the stunning harbour. This serene park offers a perfect setting for visitors to witness the beauty of cherry blossoms in full bloom against the tranquil backdrop of Otaru’s port city. If you’re looking for a unique dose of retro charm, Minami Otaru Station is the place to be. The picturesque railway bridge here is adorned with magnificent cherry blossoms, which offer a feast for the eyes. Just a short distance away lies the Tenjoji Temple, another serene spot for sakura viewing. The temple is surrounded by stunning cherry blossom trees that add to the overall beauty of the place.

Story by: Archana Singh

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