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. While some of the hikes (looking at you, Takao) are quite popular and might attract couples on dates in heels and other unsuitable gear, 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.
1000 cherry trees at Mount Takao | Tokyo
An already famous viewing spot, Takao is a popular hike throughout the year thanks to its relative easy trails and proximity to the city. One of the easier trails is the Omotesando Trail. It may be busier but will lead you past the Yakuoin Shrine, a great landmark of the Mountain.
This main trail has a decent amount of cherry trees lining the paths, but for the best area, you have to hike an extra 30 minutes from the summit to reach an area called Takaosan Senbonzakura (Mount Takao, one thousand cherry trees) which is promising, I think you’ll agree. Alternatively, you can catch the cable car to the Itchodaira area which has an observation spot—you’ll spot them easily from there! There are a few different varieties here and they tend to be in season a week or two after those in Tokyo.
Getting there: Catch the train to Keio Takasanguchi. From there, you can hike up the mountain (about 2 hours), or walk to Kiyotaki Station, where you can take a combination of cable cars and colorful open ropeway lifts (ski-lift style) for ¥480 one way, depositing you halfway up the mountain.
Lanterns at Mount Kobo | Kanagawa
A popular hike especially at this time of year, Mount Kobo is easily accessed from Tokyo and makes for a great light family hike. With views of Fuji (on a clear day of course) and Sagami Bay, the picnic spots are a reward in themselves, and the cherry blossom is the cherry on top!
Located at the base of Mount Oyama, Mount Kobo is next to Mount Gongen, and the two can be combined for a slightly longer hike starting from Hadano Station. The route suggested by our trusted advisers at Ridgeline even lands you at Tsurumaki Onsen in time for a soak and to catch the train home!
The cherry blossoms ring the mountain and plenty of trails and picnic areas. In the evening lanterns are used to provide a soft illumination between 6pm – 10pm from late April to Early May. Between Mount Gongen and Mount Kobo is a tunnel of blossoms, and the park itself (Koboyama Park) has over 2000 trees to admire!
Getting there: You can catch a direct train from Shinjuku to Hadano in just over an hour (if you catch the rapid express) and it will cost ¥670 each way.
The castle grounds of Mount Iwadono | Yamanashi
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.
In our pilot episode, we're joined by Alvin Cheung of ABC Coffee, Hapnick, and Tokyo Keyboards
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 Koen, 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, but 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 ¥1,320 each way.
Watermills and parks at Mount Hanno | Saitama
Surrounded by cherry trees and offering views of Mount Fuji, Mount 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 and to start off your day. If you decide on the beginner-level hike of Kinchakuda you can spot the blossoms as you walk and be sure to pack some hanami-themed snacks for the rest areas so you can enjoy your break. Towards the end of your journey, you’ll be faced with an actual hike rather than a nice stroll, as you climb Mt. Hanno 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!
Once you head back down, be sure to stop by at the Hanno Central Park, where a cherry blossom festival is held with evening illuminations of the 400+ trees in the park.
Getting there: Catch the Seibu Ikebukuro Line from Ikebukuro to Hanno, it takes about 45 mins and costs ¥470.
5000 sakura trees at Mount Myogi | Gunma
A mountain with a reputation for weathered rocks, Myogi also has over 5000 cherry trees and is one of the three mountains of Jomo (the original name of 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 Mount Myogi involve using ropes or chains to climb steep or narrow paths, so keep that in mind if you’re a beginner or if the weather is bad. 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 and numerous picnic spots. They bloom later than Tokyo though, so head up between April to mid-May.
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 ¥2,270 each way. From there you must take a taxi for about 25 minutes.
Extra Blossom Tips for 2019
Get ready for cherry blossom season in Tokyo:
Since it’s bigger than Christmas, Cherry Blossom 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 Blossom 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.
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