Best place to see cherry blossoms in Japan – Yoshino!

Best place to see cherry blossoms in Japan – Yoshino!

Best cherry blossoms in Japan - YoshinoNara prefecture has some of the most beautiful places to see sakura, or cherry blossoms in Japan.  Nara park has a huge number of cherry blossom trees, and I do love cycling around the city to see all the blossoms. But, I honestly think the very best place to see cherry blossoms in Japan is in Yoshino, around Yoshino yama (吉野山).

I realize that many other prefectures also boast about their beautiful sakura-filled views, so if you can’t make it to Nara, you make do with those. It’s just, if you are anywhere vaguely close to Nara in spring, get yourself on a train to Yoshino, and then send me thank you hugs later.

How to reach the beautiful mountain full of cherry blossons

Most people arrive in Yoshino on the Kintestsu trainline. This will take 40 minutes from Nara (or just over an hour and a half from Kyoto.) You can plan your trip with hyperdia. From there, you can take a cable car up the first hill. However it isn’t a long walk, so if you arrive when the cable car has just left, or if there is a long queue; Just walk up the hill. It’s not particularly strenuous! While you are below the village, there are some amazing views up higher into the mountain. It is covered in thousands of cherry blossom trees.

History, temples and shrines:

Yoshino yama has been a good place to view sakura for a looong time! The first trees were planted here by monks over 1300 years ago. Nowadays there are more than 30,000 cherry blossom trees. You can a detailed history of Yoshino here.

All this means there are some amazing temples and shrines to explore. The Kinpusenji temple and Yoshimizu Shrine are the two most famous. They both have fantastic views of the surrounding sakura trees. You can also visit Chikurin-in and Nyoirinji Temple. If you walk further up the mountain, you can get to the gorgeous Mikumari Shrine.

Omikuji

You can find out your fortune at the various temples. How it works: You pay for a omikuji, and they’ll give you a box full of wooden sticks. Shake the box a few times and then shake out a single stick. The number on the stick tells you which fortune you should take.

The best thing about Japanese fortunes is that if you are going to have good fortune, just keep hold of it. BUT, if you don’t like what you read, never fear! You can tie your bad fortune onto one of the sakura trees. It’s really easy to abandon bad fortune, and forget about it. I really like the way trees can be covered in both blossoms and omikuji.

Tasty things to eat in Yoshino

There are small shops and stalls along the streets leading you towards the temples, shrines and cherry blossoms. There are plenty of yaki mochi, grilled rice cakes and country-style, spicy konnyaku. Konnyaku is hard to explain, it is a strange jelly-like substance that is meant to be really good for you, but it isn’t particularly flavorsome. I think the way it is served in the countryside in Nara (on a stick) is the least bad way to try it.

I always like to treat myself to a sakura flavoured soft serve ice cream during cherry blossom season.  There are other traditional flavours available, like matcha, yuzu peel, or black sesame, but pink ice cream makes the most sense when you’re surrounded by pink flowers.

The most obvious traditional food to try in Nara is kakinohazushi. Nara prefecture doesn’t have any boarders with the sea, so this dish was a way to preserve fish before people had access to super speedy transportation and fridges! Each slice of fish is preserved in fragrant vinegar, placed on sushi rice and then wrapped in a persimmon leaf. So when you open your lunch, it will look like a box of perfectly folded leaves. Open each leaf to reveal some seriously tasty sushi.

Best place to see cherry blossoms in Japan

Once you’ve made it past all the shops, you head towards the area that makes Yoshino so stunning. There are just so many pink and white blossoms in all directions! This is a popular area to stop and have a picnic on the slopes of the mountain. I normally find that the higher you climb, the fewer people there are, but it will always be quite busy because Japanese people are serious about their enjoyment of hanami, blossom viewing.

All my photos are from yeeeears ago when I first visiting Yoshino with a group of friends on the JET program. We all lived in various places around Nara, so Yoshino was the perfect place to meet up, eat tasty foods, drink sake and chat to local hanami enthusiasts!

The best sakura views

I really like going up near the top of Yoshino yama, to be rewarded with views of the surrounding mountains, Yoshino village below, an of course, all the cherry blossoms.

As you can see, the paths are really well maintained and easy to follow, so although it’s more comfy to explore in hiking boots, you can get away with any comfy shoes. So, even with my super old photos, you can see this is a beautiful place to explore.

When to visit

Late March to early April
The dates will change slightly every year, but Japanese TV will have sakura forecasts, so you can watch the local news to find out when the blossoms will be in full bloom. As Yoshino is in the mountains, it is slightly colder than Nara city, so I would normally spend a couple of weeks taking photos in the city, and then head down to Yoshino a little later in the season.

Don’t fall for instagram hype:

Yoshino Yama IS incredibly beautiful BUT this is partly because the flowers move slowly up the mountain over a couple of weeks. So when the trees by the train station are starting to flower, the trees up near the top of the mountain are still bare. Then, by the time the trees at the top are mankai (fully in bloom) the trees halfway up will be a mix of green leaves and blossoms and the trees at the bottom will be mostly green.

The thing is, some photographers use composite images to show the whole mountain in bloom all at once. It doesn’t normally look like that! It is a beautiful place, but you don’t have to fake it!

So, if you’d like to see a mountain covered in white and pink flowers, seriously, get yourself to Yoshino. Bring a picnic and grab a seat like these obaa-chans.

Teeny bit of Japanese language so you can look like a hanami pro:

花見 Hanami: cherry blossom viewing
Sakura: cherry blossoms
満開 Mankai: fully in bloom
Hana: flowers
Yama: mountain
おみくじ Omikuji: Fortune

What to order:
柿の葉寿司 Kakinohazushi: Sushi wrapped in persimmon leaves
こんにゃくKonnyaku: That jelly-like food on a stick
焼き餅 Yakimochi: Really tasty hot mochi

What to say if you make friends
かんぱい Kampai: cheers
美味しい Oishii: delicious
綺麗ですね Kireidesune: Isn’t it pretty (you’ll hear this a lot)
寒いですね Samuii desune: Isn’t it cold
ありがとうございます Arigatou gozaimasu: Thank you

 

80 thoughts on “Best place to see cherry blossoms in Japan – Yoshino!

    1. Oooh do you have plans for a Japan trip Hayley? I’m happy to help you if you have any questions! I’ve explored almost every prefecture, although I do love Nara best…

      Yoshino is a pretty amazing place all year round, but if you can make it in spring, it is stunning!

      1. Oh I wish, I was just being positive. I almost put “when/if”, but decided- no dammit- I WILL make it there one day. It’s one of my destinations that I’d most like to visit. WHEN I do go, I’ll definitely come to you for advice and tips- thank you x

        1. Oooh please do!

          p.s. It’s totally okay to write it as “when” I’m starting to do the same now I follow some travel bloggers who keep showing me places that I would LOVE to visit!!

  1. Just yesterday I was showing my mom some of the beautiful images of the cherry blossoms that are popping up on Instagram. She agreed that this is definitely a bucket list item! You’re so lucky. Gonna have to start a piggy bank to save up for Japan. 🙂

    1. Oooh thanks Melissa! Get that piggy bank started – it is soooo worth visiting Japan to see the sakura. Although, if I am totally honest, I love Japan in the autumn even more!

      I’d like to go back too…although I think I’d need sooo many memory cards now I have a better camera!!

  2. Oh my goodness, the hillsides full of cherry blossoms look magical. I’m jealous of those who were sitting beneath the trees. Your photos are fantastic, as always. Are you planning on going back to visit again? I can sense your passion for Japan in all of your posts, Josy. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. I’m sure we’ll go back again, but we just need to have a holiday which isn’t taken up by a wedding! 😉

      Japan totally stole my heart, so I can’t help but want to keep going back.

  3. Hanami sounds like a perfect way to soak in the beauty of the season. Look at those heavenly views of the last few photographs! And then the street food which sounds perfect for mindless snacking along the way. Thank you for this window into Yoshino. xx

    1. Thanks dippy dotty lady!
      You’re right, I always love street food like that. I am so glad you like the look of Yoshino too. <3

    1. Woah thanks Phil!

      They are all mine, but from a very old camera! It’s just a really pretty place, so even old photos look alright!

    1. The sakura forecast is really serious! They even have pink blooming flowers moving up Japan as the cherry blossoms start to flower!! It is really awesome how serious Japanese people can be about hanami!

  4. I’ve read so much about Japan that it’s about time I book a ticket for the next Sakura season! Is it weird that I want to get there and try the pink ice cream 😛 I love your pictures btw!

    1. Sakura ice cream is soooo nice! It just tastes sort of sweet and floral. I am not sure if you can get it during the rest of the year though…Japan is quite big on seasonal products.

      I have a feeling you’d like the seasonal matcha and sakura flavoured kitkats too! 😉

  5. Cherry blossoms are so beautiful! I’ve only ever seen them in Washington DC, so it would be amazing to see them in Japan!

    1. Oooh I’ve heard from several people that sakura are stunning in Washington DC! Are there hills covered in sakura there too, or is it more pretty parks?

  6. This is a great guide! I went to Japan for cherry blossom season a couple of years ago, but I didn’t get to Yoshino. I’d love to go here next time and try the kakinohazushi.

    1. I loooove kakinohazushi! You can get pretty good versions in Nara (near all the deer) so even if you don’t make it to Yoshino you can try it.

      Where did you visit? There are sooo many good sakura-viewing spots!!

  7. This is an ultimate dream of mine! I love cherry blossoms and I’m desperate to see them in Japan! All your photos make Yoshino look like something out of a fairy tale. Also love that you included a little Japanese at the end for us to learn, so cool!

    1. Oooh I hope you get to go one year Martha!

      Btw, Japanese is actually pretty easy for beginners, (especially pronunciation-wise!) so I do hope you’ll be able to pick up a few words and impress all the folks out doing hanami!! 😀

  8. I wish I could get on a train to Yoshino right now. And even if I was in time for the cable car, I think I would walk anyway. It sounds like you’ll get to see much more of the 30,000 cherry blossom trees this way. It’s very interesting to know that they don’t all blossom at once.

    1. Me too! I’d love to be back there eating mochi, drinking sake and making friends under pink flowers!!

      I used to work in the Prefectural office in Nara…they had some amazing posters showing the whole mountain, but they were a composite that made it look like everywhere flowers at the same time. It used to really annoy me.

  9. I love festivals like this! I lived in Korea and we had something similar for the plum blossom (looks similar to cherry blossom). Love that you mention the flowering patterns aren’t uniform, and you’re totally right about the tweaking of images to make it look like its all covered. lol nature doesn’t work that way!

    1. Oooh I would LOVE that! There is a (way less famous) place to the East of Nara called Tsukigase that has over 10,000 plum blossoms. I LOVE those as they are even “fluffier” than the sakura, and the pink colour is sooo bright!

      The only bad thing about plum blossoms is they bloom when it is still quite cold! You sort of need a hot spring after plum blossom viewing!!

      p.s. I would loooove to go to Korea. Do you have any posts about their plum blossoms? I’d love to see them!!

  10. I’m jealous. I’ve been in Japan twice but never on cherry blossoms time. Ah, I should plan it next time.

    1. What time did you go? I LOVE cherry blossom time of year, mostly because everyone is so happy and ready to drink/ have a giggle BUT I still think autumn in Japan is the most beautiful season! The red maple trees and bright yellow ginko trees are just stunning…

  11. Yes, the cherry blossom is beautiful here indeed. What I have also noticed is that some places in Japan are equally prettier in the Autumn. Did you check out any evening lit peak cherry blossom gardens?

    1. Yeeees! I totally agree on both of your points!

      I LOVE Japan in the autumn.

      and the sakura lit up at night are gorgeous! I really loved seeing Osaka and Kyoto lit up like that, although Nara has some really nicely lit up areas too. <3

  12. Wow, to witness the cherry blossoms is still a dream to me, hopefully I’ll get to see it one day. Although I must admit, I haven’t heard of Yoshino before, mainly because Kyoto getting all the Instagram attention. I am glad I found your article to know what else to explore in Japan beyond the routine 🙂

    1. Kyoto is pretty famous for everything and there are some truly stunning cherry blossom filled views there too!

      That is partly why I wanted to share more about Yoshino. I LOVE the area South of Nara, but few non-Japanese people know about it.

  13. I love your point about not falling into the Instagram trap. Creating art by painting a hillside filled with flowers through manipulating the pictures is great–but not so great if it’s taken for reality. The disappointment against the ideal is such a shame and so unnecessary as you so rightly point out. There’s no reason not to love the green and pink mixed up on the mountain. It’s wondrous in its own way.
    That program you did sounds amazing. You are a wonder doing all kinds of cool things!

    1. Yeah, the JET programme was awesome. I wanted to apply for it for years so I was sooo happy when I was selected.

      My job was interpreting, translating, running an English language broadcast, planning and running big intercultural events etc. It was the best job ever!! <3

      I agree about fake photos. It is such a shame if people see the beautiful reality and are disappointed because it is not as epic as a fake photo!!

    1. You know, I don’t remember there being much of a scent to all those blossoms. It’s just a general smell of spring, permeated with food and sake smells as so many people go out and have picnics!!

  14. Wow! Those pictures are incredible. I have a cousin that lives in Japan and he’s been posting pics from where he lives. This is definitely a bucket list possibility.

    1. Yep. It’s not that impressive though. My degree was in Japanese and History so it took quite a few years! It is a really fun language to learn!!

  15. Wow! Sooo pretty! Since I live in one of the least exotic places in the world, Ohio, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a cherry blossom. Those pictures are gorgeous! And like Phil’s question, I too want to know if you speak Japanese!

    1. Yep. I’m using it less here in Vancouver but I am fluent in Japanese.

      What kind of blossoms do you have in Ohio? We have fewer cherry blossom trees in the UK, but I used to love all the apple and pear blossoms too!!

  16. I really need to remember that bad luck and energy can be left behind, and don’t need to follow you around! This looks so peaceful and rejuvenating, I can’t imagine how wonderful you would feel after spending a few hours wandering through the cherry blossoms 🙂

    1. There is an onsen in Yoshino too…so if you want to be even more relaxed, you can look at the blossoms and then relax in a hot spring!!

      I never thought about taking the omikuji philosophy into the rest of my life but you’re right. If you can write unhappy thoughts down, tie them to a tree and then forget about them, that must be good for your soul!

    1. No way! In that case I am sorry it took so long! Yay for a Lorna friendly post!!

      I’ve had a folder on my desktop full of cherry blossom photos for a while, but I have been so excited with Canada/NZ posts that I kept putting it off.

    1. Well, now you’ve seen them in Washington you can visualize how pretty it is when 3,000 trees become 30,000! It is a whooole lot of pink!

  17. What a fascinating place! I’m intrigued by the matcha, yuzu peel, and black sesame flavoured ice-cream. Seriously? I’d happily give it a try!

    1. You can quite often find those flavours in Japanese restaurants outside of Japan, especially matcha!

      I see yuzu less often outside Japan, but it is sooo tasty!

    1. Thanks Katie!! I mostly wrote this post for Arden from the GWT group as she is about to go to Yoshino on her trip to Japan. I’m so chuffed that other people like it too!! <3

    2. This is why I need to take you to Japan one day. I have a feeling you’d be stressed out if you go on your own, but if you take me to interpret for you, we’ll have a blast!

      Plus, Japan is super clean. 😉

        1. Lol I know the important information to include for you lady!! 😉

          You would LOVE their high tech loos as well!!

    1. Yay! Thank you Annaleid!

      If you ever go, please give me a shout if you need help planning a fun trip. 🙂

    1. That would be amaaaaaaazing! 😀

      Also, if you do decide to go to Japan, I can totally help you plan. I think you would LOVE it.

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