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Cherry Blossom Viewing Guide 2021: Kanto Region, Close to Tokyo

If you are in the Tokyo area during the period and crave a slightly different atmosphere, we list a couple of locations outside the capital but near enough for an overnight or even a day trip.

JAPAN Forward

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The beautiful ethereal blossoms of spring have arrived sooner than usual. As forecast by the Japan Weather Association, with some forecasts even giving the cherry blossom season predicted to start in areas neighboring Tokyo from March 25. 

JAPAN Forward has prepared this list of suggestions as to where to enjoy the beautiful flowers in the Kanto region. 

Other Stories in this Series 

Cherry Blossom Viewing Guide 2021: Tokyo 

Sakura Forecast 2021: Cherry Blossoms Come to Japan Earlier Than Usual

Kawazu Sakura Festival Canceled  for the First Time in 30 Years

If you are in the Tokyo area during the period and crave a slightly different atmosphere, we list a couple of locations outside the capital but near enough for an overnight or even a day trip, from Shizuoka to Kamakura and Kanagawa, or Yamanashi. 

JAPAN Forward has prepared this list of suggestions as to where to enjoy the beautiful flowers in the Kanto region. 

Be forewarned, however, that, especially in the capital city Tokyo, many big events with related food stalls have been canceled to discourage large gatherings as a preventative measure against the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Shizuoka Prefecture

In the shadow of Mt. Fuji, which features prominently on the prefecture’s flag, Shizuoka Prefecture offers some memorable spots such as Gotemba, Atami and Kawazu for cherry blossom viewing. It’s only a Shinkansen ride away from Tokyo (a bit more than an hour, depending on the city) and Yokohama (just under an hour). 

The small town of Kawazu is renowned for its early blooms, which usually occur in February and attract millions of visitors. In this town, a particular variety of cherry blossom tree known as the Kawazu-zakura (named for the town) is the main feature. The blossoms are large, five-petal flowers with a pink (almost magenta) color. First classified in the 1950s, approximately 8,000 Kawazu-zakura trees can be viewed in their full glory.

Unsurprisingly then, perhaps the most popular o-hanami activity in Shizuoka is the Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival, which unfortunately, is canceled due to COVID-19 concerns for the first time in 30 years, as we reported in our article here.

The city can be reached by Shinkansen by going to Atami, then changing to the Odoriko train, for a total of two hour journey from Tokyo. 

Located nearby, the town of Atami is another, less crowded spot for o-hanami. It boasts the lovely Atami Castle — standing 120 meters above sea level — which provides an excellent backdrop for the cherry blossoms.

Finally, there is Fuji Park Cemetery (near the town of Gotenba, access: Odakyu Romance Car from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station, or JR East from Tokyo or Yokohama). With nearly 8,000 cherry blossoms and, weather permitting, a view of the iconic Mt. Fuji, this park is often considered one of Japan’s top 100 spots for viewing cherry blossoms.  The blooms here are slightly later (mid-April) because of the higher altitude.

Kanagawa Prefecture

Sankeien, Yokohama

If it’s one of your first times in Yokohama, we recommend heading for Minato Mirai. There are many cherry blossoms in the pretty bay area as you stroll past Sakuragicho station, going towards the Akarenga Soko, or as it’s known in English, the Red Brick Warehouse. 

Heading a bit further down the coastline, you will soon reach Yamashita Koen, a charming bayside park, which offers a small but beautiful display of cherry blossoms, normally in the second half of March. 

If you are in the mood for the park experience, you might want to visit Kishine Park. Much more intimate than parks in Tokyo and a favorite with locals, kids, and families, there are many locations in the park where you can enjoy a picnic with friends. This includes a spot near the pond with several cherry trees gently leaning over the water, or a large field where children often play ball games. 

Finally, for a more elegant experience, jostle away from the crowds and towards Sankeien, in the trendy neighborhood of Yamashita, the area where many foreigners settled when they first came to Yokohama in the 19th century.  

Sankeien was the home and garden of a wealthy silk merchant who reproduced famous buildings on the grounds and designed his renowned garden which could be enjoyed in all seasons. The grounds comprise a total of 175,000 square meters. 

The garden can now be visited by the public between 9 A.M. and 5 P.M. Normally there would be evening events connected with sakura viewing, but they have been temporarily canceled due to COVID-19. Make sure to check the Sankeien homepage, as circumstances might change. 

More broadly in Kanagawa prefecture, we recommend also the stunning background view of Odawara Castle, where you can enjoy 320 Somei Yoshino trees. Easily reachable in 35 minutes from Tokyo Station on the Tokaido Shinkansen Kodama trains to Odawara Station, it’s a must for a castle view near the metropolis. 

Kamakura

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, Kamakura

Kamakura has hidden sakura spots in many of its splendid temples and shrines. But, if you have limited time, you shouldn’t miss Tsurugaoka Hachimangu

Imposing both in its history and in the dramatic view of the long path of the temple, which sprawls all the way up the mountain side, you can find several varieties of cherry blossoms here to welcome you at different times during the early part of the year. 

Another characteristic view can be found by those who stop by Kotoku-in. This temple provides an opportunity for the great instagrammable shot of the Great Buddha surrounded by cherry blossoms. 

Make sure to check out another temple where you can enjoy flowers in all seasons: Hasedera. It is famous for its stunning hydrangea blossoms during the rainy season in June. However, there are several types of sakura to enjoy in this temple’s grounds as well, making it an all round great place to visit during the year. 

Yamanashi Prefecture

Kawaguchiko, Yamanashi

It almost goes without saying, but in this prefecture the most stunning views of sakura are of course with Mt. Fuji in the background. 

In order to catch some of the loveliest views, we recommend going to Kawaguchiko, the lake just at the bottom of Mt. Fuji where you can admire the water and perhaps find the reflection of the sacred mount of Japan on its surface as well as in the background. And, of course the surrounding cherry blossoms. 

One particularly popular spot is Nagasaki Park, just on the lakeside. The location is accessible on foot from the Kawaguchiko Station, on the Fujikyuko Line. 

Sengen Park, Arakurayama

Another scenic spot on one of the hills surrounding mount Fuji is Sengen Park on Arakurayama. With Mount Fuji as the dramatic backdrop, you can enjoy the surrounding cherry blossoms, and the stunning five-stories pagoda. The nearest station is Shimoyoshida on the Fujikyukō Line. 

Kofu

Maizuru Castle, Kofu

In the nearby town of Kofu, about an hour away by car, one can also enjoy the Somei Yoshino trees around Maizuru Castle Park. This is just walking distance from Kofu JR station, which is less than two hours from Tokyo.  

The countryside near the town also has some lovely hikes, so make sure you enjoy the greenery while you are there!  

Of course, these suggestions are only a few locations for viewing cherry blossoms in the Kanto region. Wherever you happen to be and while avoiding the three C’s (closed, crowded and close-contact-conversation places) we recommend soaking up the sense of appreciation of nature as the spring unfolds, and enjoy the season with the beautiful cherry blossoms you are bound to find on your sightseeing strolls. 

And, who knows, you might discover some new spots where to enjoy the delicate flowers.

Did we miss any of your favorite spots or did you find one we should include next time? Let us know in the comments below.



Author: JAPAN Forward