Six sakura spots to spread out a rug and picnic until sundown.
It is impossible to imagine spring in Japan without the iconic image of a sea of cherry trees awash with abundant pink blossoms. Artists paint them, poets swoon over them, and sightseers snap selfies with them for their insta-bae qualities (a Japanese buzzword meaning “looking good on Instagram”). If you’re lucky enough to be in Kansai when the sakura trees bloom, here are six spots to savor them with a cherry-blossom picnic.
Kema Sakuranomiya Park, Osaka
One of the most famous sites for cherry-blossom gazing in Japan, the Kema Sakuranomiya Park is filled with close to 5,000 sakura trees which burst into pale pink blossoms during the spring—perfect for a hanami picnic, or a leisurely stroll.
Philosopher’s Walk, Kyoto
Wander in the footsteps of influential 20th-century philosopher Nishido Kitaro as you follow the path he walked for daily meditation. The stone thoroughfare weaves along a canal for 1.7 miles through Kyoto’s Higashiyama district and is lined with hundreds of sakura trees that blossom with color every April.
Enryakuji Temple, Shiga
Founded in 788 and now the headquarters of the Tendai Buddhism sect, this monastery has a captivatingly gory past. Take the pleasant walk through the hilly, pink forests of its three areas: Todo, Saito, and Yokawa to see the historical buildings and discover the mystery for yourself.
Satsukiyama Park, Ikeda
Sprawling up the side of Mount Satsuki, Satsukiyama Park boasts five hiking trails with commanding views of the Osaka Plain. However, if you prefer to take a more relaxed approach to cherry blossom viewing, the park also houses a free botanical garden and petting zoo that are open for most of the day.
Miles into the countryside and abundant with sakura trees, this lesser-known location is a treat for the senses. The river that snakes through the town has steps leading down to it at some points, making it ideal for spreading a blanket and eating a picnic lunch.
If there’s one ultimate Kansai cherry-blossom experience, it’s got to be at Yoshinoyama. Legend has it this is the birthplace of cherry blossoms in Japan. It is said that the original trees were planted here around 1,300 years ago, and today over 30,000 trees span a cross-section of varieties covering the mountain slopes and peaks. Visitors flock to the four groves leading up Mount Yoshino. The highest grove, Oku-senbon, lies 800m up the mountain trail.