Summer can be sweltering hot and winter can be arguably difficult for travel—the best season to travel around Japan really is the spring, as that’s when the ever famous and well-loved sakura (cherry blossom) season starts. This time of year is such a celebrated period in the Japanese calendar and goes beyond just buying a drink and having a simple picnic (hanami), it’s all about the festival atmosphere. It’s not just the big cities that are fantastic for hanami though, below we’ve highlighted some of the most impressive spring day trips from Tokyo that are easily accessible—ensuring that you have the most superb cherry blossom viewing experience.
Not exactly the nearest city to Tokyo for a day trip, but technically Kyoto can be done in a day with the journey only taking 2 hours and 20 minutes via shinkansen—you can snag a discount round-trip ticket for ¥21,000. Or, if you have it, you can get there using the Japan Rail Pass.
Maruyama Park is the place to be for cherry blossom viewing in Kyoto. You’ll see heaps of people all having their own hanami parties. The evening is when the place is truly buzzing and a great little spot to see the locals showing their appreciation for the cherry blossom season.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple is also a must-see during this time of year. The grounds of the magnificent temple are covered with cherry trees, providing an incredible hanami experience. The evening light-ups held here are essential to see if you’re in Kyoto at this time of year.
Kamakura is a highlight of the hanami scene too. It’s a fantastic day trip from Tokyo anytime of the year, but when it’s cherry blossom season, it boasts something even more special. You will see the cherry trees lined up starting from northwest of Kamakura Station. After this head on to the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine—its lined with around 500 meters of cherry trees. New trees have also been planted here and more can be found around the ponds surrounding the grounds of the shrine. Kamakura is an easy place to get to from Tokyo too. The JR Yokosuka Line connects Tokyo Station with Kamakura Station directly. The one way trip takes just under an hour and will only cost you 920 yen.
Are you the outdoors-y type? Try hiking in Kamakura.
Fuji Five Lakes
It goes without saying—you come to Japan for cherry blossom season, you go to Mount Fuji. The quickest way to get there is by taking the JR Chuo Line from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station to Otsuki Station. It will take you about 70 minutes and costs about 2,500 yen by direct limited express train. Cherry trees line the northern shores of Lake Kawaguchiko and give magnificent views of Mount Fuji with the lake as well as those gorgeous blossoms. A favorite spot for hanami is the lakeside path surrounding the Kawaguchiko Music Forest. Another is the Ubuyagasaki Peninsula next to the Kawaguchiko Ohashi Bridge. The Fuji Five Lakes is best visited in the early mornings when light conditions and visibility are at their best.
Thinking about climbing Mount Fuji? Read our guide for helpful information about it.
There are so many things that Japan does so well—food, drink and fascinating landscapes, but hanami is a dear favorite. Cherry blossom season is such an impressive and culturally important time of year for the country, so it is well worth a visit. The entire country is taken over by the festival atmosphere from Okinawa to Hokkaido. If you manage to travel around to other big cities to experience hanami, great, but rest assured that there are plenty of places to see close to the capital. Wherever you do go to see the cherry blossoms, you will soak up something really special in the atmosphere in Japan. With pictures not quite capturing the beauty of the cherry blossoms, it really does mean you’ll have to go see it for yourself.
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