If you don’t mind putting the work in for your cherry blossom viewing this spring, why not try combining your hanami with a hike?
Not only is hiking invigorating (apparently), it also gives you a sense of achievement and means you can see cherry blossom a tad later than usual, thanks to the colder temperatures that come with increased altitudes.
While parks can be crowded and riversides packed, at least with mountain trails people have an obligation to keep moving. Once you reach the top, your picnic will be well deserved and your descent down will be as picturesque as the way up. Be sure to pack some hanami-themed snacks!
Some of these hikes (looking at you, Takao) are quite popular and might attract couples on dates in heels and other unsuitable gear, but other hikes are a little less known. As ever, when venturing into the outdoors, check the weather, pack supplies, and take a map (iPhones are not infallible).
And with that, here are our top picks for cherry blossom hikes starting from Tokyo.
Mt Takao: 1000 cherry trees in west Tokyo
Mt Takao (599m) is a popular hike throughout the year — thanks to its relative easy trails and proximity to the city. Of the six routes to the top, the Omotesando Trail is the most popular. It may be also be the busiest, but will lead you past the Yakuoin Temple, a great landmark of the mountain. This trail also has a decent amount of cherry trees lining the paths.
However, for the best hanami, you have to hike an extra 30 minutes beyond the summit to reach an area called Takaosan Senbonzakura (which means “Mt Takao, one thousand cherry trees”) — promising, I think you’ll agree. There are a few different varieties here and they tend to be in season a week or two after those in Tokyo.
Getting there: From Shinjuku Station, catch a Keio Line express train to Takasanguchi. The trailhead is a short walk from the train station, and it takes about two hours to summit the mountain. You can also take a combination the cable car for adult/child ¥490/¥250 one way, which deposits you halfway up the mountain.
For more details on hiking Mt Takao and nearby attractions, check out our Takao guide.
Mt Kobo: Lanterns in Kanagawa Prefecture
Mt Kobo (235m), in Kanagawa Prefecture, is also easy to get to from Tokyo, and is a popular hike — especially at this time of year. It’s really more like a hill, which makes it great for families. With views of Mt Fuji (on a clear day, of course) and Sagami Bay, the picnic spots at the summit are a reward in themselves — and the cherry blossoms are the cherry on top!
Part of the foothills of Mt Oyama, Mt Kobo is next to Mt Gongen and you can carry on over to the second mountain over the path called Baba Michi, which is lined with cherry trees. All in all, there are about 2000 cherry trees up here, including both Somei Yoshino and yamazakura (mountain cherry). As part of the Hadano Sakura Festival, Baba Michi will be illuminated with lanterns in the evening.
Getting to the trailhead from Hadano Station (the nearest station) is a little tricky. This route mapped by our trusted advisers at Ridgeline will help you get there, and also lands you at Tsurumaki Onsen, where you can soak afterwards.
Getting there: Odakyu Line trains from Shinjuku run to Hadano in just over an hour (if you catch the rapid express) and cost ¥690 each way.
Mt Iwadono: Castle grounds in Yamanashi Prefecture
Note: Two of the three trails up Mt Iwadono are currently closed because of falling rocks. See the Otsuki City webpage for details (in Japanese).
Located in the city which heartily proclaims to be the best viewing spot of Mount Fuji, this mountain trail boasts two of Japan’s most iconic sights in one.
The trail allows you to visit Iwadono Castle which was built in 1530 and used its excellent vantage point to send and observe smoke signals as part of a network in the area. The castle is small but has a museum inside and the grounds are filled with cherry blossom, so you’ll certainly tick that off your list. It is right next to Maruyama Park, a great viewing point for Fuji and home to more blossom.
If you continue on up the mountain, there are a variety of trails you can choose from depending on how dedicated of a hiker you are. All of the trails are well maintained so you shouldn’t have any issues. The easiest one to find is right behind the castle, which is also signposted right the way up to the top. At the summit, you’ll be greeted by a stone monument and more beautiful cherry blossoms!
Getting there: Head to Otsuki Station on the Chuo Line, changing at Takao. It takes an hour and a half and costs ¥1,340 each way from Shinjuku.
Hanno: Gentle hikes and parks in Saitama Prefecture
Surrounded by cherry trees and offering views of Mt Fuji, Hanno has a lot to offer the spring hiker, including fewer crowds than some of the more popular trails.
A few minutes from Hanno Station you’ll find Noninji, a temple with a few early blossoming trees to start off your day. If you decide on the beginner-level hike of Kinchakuda you can spot blossoms as you walk. Towards the end of your journey, you’ll be faced with an actual hike rather than a nice stroll, as you climb Mt Hiwada for views of Tokyo and Fuji in the distance. We have a full article on the trail here so you can follow the directions and ensure you’re looking in the right places!
Alternatively you can head to Mount Tenranzan. On the way you’ll find over cherry trees in Hanno Central Park. The park usually hosts a cherry blossom festival but that has been canceled for 2022.
Getting there: Catch the Seibu Ikebukuro Line from Ikebukuro to Hanno. The trip takes about 50 minutes and costs ¥480.
Mt Myogi: 5000 sakura trees in Gunma Prefecture
Note: Due to falling rocks, some sections of Mt Myogi are currently closed. See Shimonita Town website for details (in Japanese).
A mountain with a reputation for weathered rocks, Mt Myogi (1104m) is one of the “three mountains of Jomo” (the original name for Gunma Prefecture). As it is also a very popular spot for autumn leaves and lush greenery in summer, it’s rare to find it quiet, but the views are worth it. This is one for the more confident hiker though, as most of the routes on Mt Myogi involve using ropes or chains to climb steep or narrow paths, and are expert level so keep that in mind. The easiest route is from Taruwaki Valley to Soma-dake, and the most challenging is the Hakuunsan route but generally, most people opt for the Sekimon Meguri course.
To the southwest of the mountain is Sakura-no-Sato Prefectural Forest Park, home to the promised 5000 cherry trees –representing 45 different varieties — and numerous picnic spots. They bloom from late March through April.
Getting there: This option is definitely much easier if you have a car, although it is possible by public transport and taxi. Catch the Shonan-Shinjuku Line from Shinjuku to Takasaki. From there head to Matsuida Station on the Shinetsu Line. This will take around 2 hours and 20 minutes and cost ¥2,310 each way. From there you must take a taxi for about 25 minutes.
Extra Blossom Tips for 2022
Get ready for cherry blossom season in Tokyo
Since it’s bigger than Christmas, cherry blossom season has a thousand and one options in Tokyo. Choose from evening illuminations, unsual ways to see the flowers and all the best places to hit up (including some quieter ones).
Look out for cherry blossoms around Japan
If you’re planning on travelling to see the flowers or spend more time based elsewhere in Japan, there are some great locations to check out. In Kyoto you’ll find plenty of temples and river-side walks; Osaka offers rarely-opened gardens and stunning castle-grounds; while Kanazawa is a quieter spot with teahouse-lined streets to explore.