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The actual week of cherry blossom is very hard to predict as varying weather conditions trigger the cherry blossom to bloom at different times. Some years it gets warmer earlier, bringing on the blossom earlier, and some years it is colder and rainier until later, thus triggering the blossom later. It is a good idea to keep an eye on Sakura Weather Map for a good up to date forecast of the cherry blossom.
Below are the best places in Kansai to see the Cherry Blossom. Some of these locations welcome Hanami.
Hanami basically means ‘cherry blossom viewing’. But the Japanese would call it a cherry blossom party. What it basically is is getting together with a bunch of friends and having a picnic under the Cherry blossom. It is a great experience and a fantastic way to view the incredible cherry blossom. Pop into the nearest Convenience store (combini) and buy some snacks, drinks, beers, portable chairs, and go out and picnic under the Cherry Blossom!
►Opening hours: Until late. Lights illuminate the blossom until 1 am.
►Admission Fee: free
►Can I Hanami here?: Yes!
One of the biggest cherry tree parks, and indeed the oldest park in Kyoto is Maruyama park, this would be the best place to see the Cherry blossom, and have a Hanami picnic party.
Located next to the Yasaka Shrine, it is very centrally located and easy to get to. There are many convenience stores around here. My advice is to get here early and find a space to picnic quick as it will get crowded, especially on the weekend.
►Opening hours: Open all hours
►Admission fee: free
►Can I Hanami here? Yes, in most areas.
Arashiyama is a rural area/district a few kilometres north west of Kyoto City. It is most famous for its monkey park, where wild monkeys roam around, and for the bamboo forest. However, it is also famous for its beauty during the spring Cherry blossom. Take a day here to explore the stunning cherry blossom, and indeed the beautiful scenery of Arashiyama. In certain spots, you are allowed to Hanami, but check signs and what other people are doing. I recommend taking a walk up the Katsura River. The further upstream you walk, the fewer tourists there are and the prettier it gets! Again, no littering! The Japanese take this very seriously.
►Opening Hours: Open 24/7
►Admission fee: Free
►Can I Hanami here?: Yes!
Nothing says springtime more than watching the young ‘sacred’ and very tame deer prance around in cherry blossom leaves. Sounds like something from a Roald Dahl or Disney book. You can go do this while having a picnic in Nara Park… but the deer will probably try to steal your food!
Nara Park is a very famous and beautiful tourist attraction due to its amazing history, culture and number of temples and shrines that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The famous temples include Todaiji, which houses one of Japan's largest bronze statues of Vairocana, or ‘Daibutsu’ in Japanese.
Nara park is easy to get to from Osaka or Kyoto. Kintetsu Nara station will get you the closest, then it’s a short walk from there.
It gets extremely busy in Nara at this time, so if you need a hotel, you should book sooner rather than later. Click here for some hotel deals in Nara.
►Opening hours: Open 24/7
►Admission fee: Free
►Can I Hanami here?: Most parts of the Mountain yes! But please don't litter or you will face heavy fines!
Yoshino Yama is probably the best place in Japan to view the Cherry Blossom. Over 30,000 cherry blossom are located across the hilly area of the Yoshino Yama, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its outstanding cultural, historical importance, as well as beauty. Historically the area has seen the culture of locals donating cherry tree seeds to the Kimpusen-ji temple, which is the main temple of the mountain area. These seeds were/are planted in the surrounding mountain area. The result is unprecedented cherry blossom beauty when spring comes.
The Yoshino mountain area is quite difficult to get to purely because it is very rural. However, you can get Kintetsu Line trains from Osaka or Kyoto to Yoshino Station, which is the last station on the line. From there you can get the cable car up into the mountain village area and explore on foot. If you have a hire car, you’re winning! But commuter traffic is really bad around there so plan your trip well!
As the Yoshino mountains are quite remote, it would be a good idea to book a hotel or Ryokan. Some of the Ryokans (Traditional Japanese Inns) are incredibly beautiful with traditional rooms and hot spring baths.
For more Info on Yoshinoyama, Click here for our Yoshino homepage.
►Can I Hanami here?: Most parts of the village yes!
Kinosaki Onsen is a great place to visit during the spring. Kinosaki Onsen is a village located a 2 and a half hour train ride north-west of Kyoto. The actual village sits on a hot spring source, so the entire village is a hot spring village - ‘Onsen’ means hot spring bath. The cherry blossom here is very beautiful towards in mid-March.
Picture a small village pretty village in rural Japan with many bathhouses, people walking around in traditional bathrobes, and pink cherry blossom petals falling around like snow. Sounds dreamy right? Then you must come to visit Kinosaki onsen!
As it is quite a way away, I would recommend staying in one of the incredible Ryokans here. You can experience true Japanese hospitality at any number of the Ryokans here. They all have hot spring baths in them, and they will give you a ‘bath pass’ which is basically a ticket that allows you to visit any of the bathhouses in the village for free. You can also buy these tickets for cheap if you aren't staying at one of the ryokans.
►Price per person: around £250/ €280/ $345 per person
♦♦♦♦♦ 5 Star
If your budget stretches, I highly recommend spending one night in Nishimura Ryokan. A beautiful family owned ryokan, steeped in history and tradition. The service is incredible, the food is traditional kaiseki, and the whole experience is amazing. The Ryokan has two of its own bathhouses, but you will also receive a bathhouse ticket from the front desk that allows you to use any of the bathhouses in the Village. Just scan the ticket at the entrance of the bathhouse and enjoy!
►Price per person: around £200/ €225/ $275 per person
♦♦♦♦ 4 star
A romantic, more modest ryokan based in the heart of the village. I recommend this for couples and small families as you can still get the amazing Ryokan experience for less of the price. This ryokan has its own bathhouse but you can get a bathhouse ticket to allow you to use the other bathhouses for free.