Global warming may be sweeping Europe (no thanks to #beastfromtheeast), thankfully it’s not affecting Japan’s cherry blossom season. While full bloom by Japan Guide is expected earlier – Tokyo on the 24 March, Kyoto on the 27 March, Kanazawa on 4 April and Sapporo on 2 May – there’s still ample time to plan your trip, here are a few ideas to get you started.
Stay with Mount Fuji in clear view
Tick three (glamping, Mount Fuji and sakura season) off the bucket list with a stay at Hoshinoya Fuji. Situated overlooking Lake Kawaguchi, each one of the 40 guest rooms enjoys a reflection of the mountain. Designed in a minimalistic style, there’s nothing to detract from the majestic Mount Fuji and the delicate blossoms that frame it. Bonus: The spacious private outdoor terrace makes the perfect Insta set-up for that breakfast flatlay.
Images: Hoshino Resorts
Get a local to show you around
Who better than a seasoned local (who just happens to be a professional photographer) to steer you away from the crowds and to prime hanami viewing spots. Professional photographer Martin Rousseau runs two cherry blossom-related Airbnb Experiences (in Tokyo (24-30 March) and Kyoto (2-8 April). Organised in groups of five, he focuses on the lesser-known areas minutes away from the main attractions, so you’re well-positioned away from the selfie sticks to take those stunning hanami photos.
Images: Martin Rousseau
Take a boat trip up the Oigawa River
That you’ll be staying in a luxury ryokan (Hoshinoya Kyoto) with cherry blossoms in full view is already a treat. That you’ll arrive by a hinoki (Japanese cedar) boat – a slow 15-minute ride up the picturesque sakura-lined Ooi River – is akin to a fairytale experience. The only establishment in Kyoto to be included in Conde Nast Traveler’s Gold List 2017, the 25-room resort is an escape from modern life with its morning meditations in a zen temple, contemporary kaiseki cuisine, rock garden, and rooms decorated in traditional hand-blocked wallpaper. The only downside we see is it’ll be impossible to leave the premises.
Images: Hoshino Resorts
Plan a road trip to Hokkaido in May
Avoid the crowds in March and April, instead go in May to Hokkaido where the cherry blossoms will be in full bloom. Two spots to visit: Maruyama Park next to the Hokkaido Shrine where over 1,700 wild cherry trees have been planted,and the 20-Ken Roads of Shizunai, rated as one of the best cherry spotting spots by Kayak. A 7km-long road in Shinhidaka lined with over 3,000 cherry trees, if you’ve got a drone, this will be a choice location to shoot an overhead tracking shot of the cherry blossoms.
www.kayak.com for flights
Pack a picnic for quieter spots
If your idea of a good time involves fighting for space in a park while trying to snap photos of sakura flowers, go to Ueno Park, Nakameguro River and Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo. If not, seek out smaller parks like the Hama Rikyu Gardens, a traditional garden designed in the Kaiyu Teien style with skyscrapers in the backdrop, and the hilltop Ikegami Honmonji Temple in South Tokyo which is equally lovely with its five-storey pagoda and beautiful sakura flowers.