Cherry Blossom season in Japan is an incredibly special time. The stunning pink and white flowers signify not only the start of spring but also a time of renewal. This time of a year is a chance for the Japanese people to refresh, regroup and refocus their personal and family goals for the year to come. Although deeply embedded in Japanese culture, Cherry Blossom season is a relatively new tourist journey for the rest of the world. Cherry Blossom season has become immensely popular probably for one reason, and one reason alone, it is magical.
There are so many beautiful places to experience Cherry Blossom season in Japan. Starting from the south the blossoms bloom one by one heading further and further north until they finish in Hokkaido. One of the best places to experience Cherry Blossom season is in the Kansai region. Kansai consists of famous locations such as Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and Himeji. We recommend checking out the Cherry Blossom Classic Tour or Custom Tours.
The following are our choices for the best Cherry Blossom Experiences in Kansai.
The ancient capital of Japan, Kyoto is a place like no other. Covered in World Heritage sites, Kyoto is a favorite destination for both Japanese and international tourists. Temples, shrines, Geisha, tea houses, restaurants, gardens, shopping and Cherry Blossoms, Kyoto has it all. We recommend spending at least a couple of days checking out all that Kyoto has to offer. The best way to see everything is via the excellent local public transport or by hiring a private chauffeured vehicle. Top of the places to experience in Kyoto are Fushimi Inari (famous Shinto shrine with hundreds of orange gates), Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Palace), Kiyomizu-dera (historical temple with amazing views), Arashiyama (bamboo forest), Philosopher’s Walk and Gion (for Cherry Blossoms).
Whilst in Kyoto it is always strongly recommended a trip to the famed local markets and plenty of local cuisine. Kyoto in Cherry Blossom season is magical and something everyone should experience at least once in their lives.
2. Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle or Osaka-jo as it is known locally is a spectacular castle and grounds right in the heart of Osaka. The incredibly expansive grounds are home to a couple of thousand cherry blossom trees that when in full bloom are something to behold. The beauty of Osaka-jo is the incredibly large area allowing visitors to spread out and enjoy both the manmade and natural elements of the grounds. In addition to the Cherry Blossoms, Osaka-jo has many other manicured gardens, historic buildings, rock walls, water features and of course the castle itself. Visitors are able to enter the castle and ascend the floors at their leisure. A spectacular museum of Osaka’s history is inside the castle. The top floor of the castle offers visitors magnificent views over the entire grounds as well as Osaka and the nearby mountains.
Another great thing about Cherry Blossom season is the number of local food vendors providing specialized cuisine to all the castle’s visitors. We recommend however a cherry blossom themed BBQ on the roof of the main building. Fantastic views and sensational food.
3. Himeji Castle
Many people have probably seen a picture of the iconic Himeji-jo (castle) without ever realizing where the castle is. Images of Himeji-jo are often used in promotional material around the world as it the castle and grounds are a World Heritage site and truly spectacular. Only a short train ride from Osaka, we highly recommend a journey to Himeji-jo as it is truly a unique and beautiful part of Japan. In addition to the castle itself, Himeji is covered in Cherry Blossom trees. A stroll in the grounds is simply heaven on earth and something everyone should do at least once. There are also plenty of local vendors offering exceptional foods, treats and souvenirs all linked to the Cherry Blossom season. Definitely a place to visit.
4. Kobe Wagyu & Sake
Many people around the world would be familiar with Kobe Beef or Kobe Wagyu, but we are willing to bet that not many people have ever had the pleasure or trying this luxurious Japanese product. True Kobe Wagyu is of exceptional quality and as such attracts a premium price tag. The highly marbled and prized meat is best enjoyed as part of a teppanyaki experience. After a day of viewing the sublime cherry blossoms of Kansai, a delectable meal of Kobe Wagyu certainly goes down well. Kobe Wagyu is a must try for any serious food lover.
Kobe Sake is another excellent product to enjoy as part of your cherry blossom experience in Kansai. We take our guests to a famous sake brewery that supplies the Nobel Prize ceremonial dinners. Learning about the ancient practice of making sake is certainly an eye-opener particularly considering there are only three ingredients. We highly recommend enjoying a sake or three as part of the experience, even better if you can do it in the brewery gardens under the cherry blossom trees.
5. Kyoto Kaiseki
Kaiseki is the traditional multi-course Japanese meal based on seasonal and regional produce. Kaiseki is the pinnacle of Japanese cuisine and as such is intensely revered. Kyoto is famed for its kaiseki restaurants with several exceptional offerings from three Michelin starred restaurants. Some of the restaurants have a long and rich history numbering in the hundreds of years. If you visit Kyoto, as part of Cherry Blossom season you must try a kaiseki meal. It is common that the meal will incorporate not only elements of spring, but cherry blossoms themselves. The shear mastery that goes into creating these delicious meals is something truly spectacular.
If you only do one of our top five in Kansai during Cherry Blossom season you won’t be disappointed; however, if you can do all five you will have the trip of a lifetime.
Some frequently asked questions
Is Kansai busy during Cherry Blossom Season?
Yes, it is extremely busy as tourists from all over the world come to see the Cherry Blossoms. We strongly recommend that you always come as part of an organized tour, with a reputable tour company which specializes in Japan tours.
Where is the best place to stay in Kansai?
We recommend guests stay in Osaka as it is suitably located to travel to all the key destinations in the area.
Can I stay in Kyoto?
Absolutely, however, be prepared to pay a premium for all accommodation in Kyoto as in additional the high season charges, the Kyoto government charges an additional tax.
Do you recommend staying in a ryokan or traditional hotel in Kansai?
Yes! A ryokan is a fantastic way to be completely immersed in the Japanese culture. Check out our article for the Top 10 reasons to stay in a Ryokan.
Some Cherry Blossom Travel Tips
Should I be aware of big travel companies?
The number of times we have been conducting our tours only to run into wandering and often lost tourists who are on Cherry Blossom Tours with some of the best-known companies in the world, is beyond surprising. We are astounded by the lack of information provided and the 100% lack of guidance. These tourists had usually not seen a single cherry blossom until we came across them. When asked where they had been, it was obvious their chosen provider had just taken their money without a care for a cherry blossom forecast dates.
Should I be aware of cruise ships?
Taking a Cherry Blossom Tour via a cruise ship is not recommended. Whilst on our Cherry Blossom tours in 2019, we came across a vast number of unguided tourists in Hirosaki in early May. To our surprise this was the first any of them had seen a cherry blossom in two weeks. All the tourists had paid large sums of money only to go without seeing a single blossom day after day after day. When we enquired where they had been the reason was obvious. The cruise ship had taken them to southern Japan where the bloom had been finished for some weeks.
Choose a small boutique tour company
Choosing a small tour company that specialises in Cherry Blossom Tours is always the best option. You will not only receive far better service, greater inclusions, better accommodation and dining experiences; but also, you will be choosing a company that follows the forecasts, historical bloom dates and cherry blossom science 100%.