#4385

The Roof of Japan: where sakura bloom in Golden Week within 3 hours of Tokyo!

One of the top things that visitors from overseas want to see when they come to Japan is, of course, the sakura (cherry) blossoms. Timing as they say, is everything and this very much applies to sakura (cherry) blossoms. Sakura blossoms are ephemeral things: the blossoms only last a week and when they bloom varies from year to year and place to place. Starting from Okinawa in the south to far north of Hokkaido, the season stretches from February to May.
However, for most short-term travellers to Japan a side trip of 2-3 days from the major tourist hot spots just to see the sakura blossoms is just not feasible. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to find sakura in full bloom within a day trip by train or bus from Tokyo, Nagoya or Kyoto up to a month after they’ve bloomed in those places. The place to head for is the ‘Roof of Japan’! It’s the area in central Nagano Prefecture centred around Lake Suwa and the Yatsugatake Mountain range. Its known as the Roof of Japan because it’s the highest inhabited place in Japan, an area at 700 to 1,600 meters above sea level surrounded by mountains rising to over 3,000 meters. Accordingly, its much colder than the coastal areas which means that Spring comes much later. Because of the variation in altitude it is possible to view cherry blossoms from early April to early May within a relatively close distance.
Three of my favourite places for doing hanami in the Roof of Japan are Takato castle, Kozenji Temple and Shokoji Temple. All have an abundance of impressive sakura trees which flower at different times from early April to early May and are easily accessible from Kanto, Chubu or Kansai. Takato unfortunately is already finished blooming this year, Kozenji reached its peak last weekend and Shokoji will be in full bloom the week. Like the rest of Japan, that’s 1 to 2 weeks earlier than usual.
Takato Ruins Castle Park – Ina City
In 1875 the stone ruins of Takato Castle, high on a high hill, were planted with 1,500 of the deep pink Kohigan variety of cherry trees. The trees are large now and when in full bloom the whole of the hill is covered in a pink hue. The trees are lit up at night every night until 10pm. Entry is Yen 500. Take the JR Chuo Line to Chino Station - 2 hours and Yen 6,000 from Shinjuku. During the blossom season buses leave from the station directly to Takato and take 50 minutes and cost Yen 1,400.
Kozenji Temple – Komagane City
The Kozenji Temple, run by the Tendai Sect, is famous for its 70 Shiidare sakura, or weeping cherries and for its luminescent moss garden. The snow-capped Central Alps form a spectacular backdrop to the pink cherry trees. Go to Komagane Station on JR Iida Line – about 3 hours from Tokyo or Nagoya.
Shokoji Temple - Chino City
The Shokoji Temple, built by Toyota Corporation in the 1970s to pray for safety on the roads, has a large park just near Lake Tateshina with hundreds of the famous Somei Yoshino cherry blossoms. A great place for hanami parties during Golden Week! Take the Venus Line bus from Chino Station – takes about 30minutes and Yen 500.

Phil image

Phil

Australia

Phil's other advice

Onomichi - Hiroshima's gateway to the Seto Inland Sea images

Onomichi - Hiroshima's gateway to the Seto Inland Sea

Japan has 47 prefectures all of which have their own attractions making it hard for the foreign visitor to choose where to go. Hiroshima is undoubtedly high on the list of must visit places because …

Matsuyama Castle and Dogo Onsen - Classic Japan images

Matsuyama Castle and Dogo Onsen - Classic Japan

Whenever my friends from overseas ask me what would be a classic thing to do in Japan, I always reply that visiting a medieval castle and staying in an onsen town (hot spring bath) are a "must". The…

Cycling the scenic Seto Inland Sea images

Cycling the scenic Seto Inland Sea

If you're looking for a holiday in Japan which involves stunning scenery, great food and some moderate exercise then the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido Cycling route is for you. The cycling route runs for …

Who would ever think up a festival like this and then keep it going for 1,200 years images

Who would ever think up a festival like this and then keep it going for 1,200 years

Who would ever think up a festival like this and then keep it going for 1,200 yearsIt was our second day of pulling a ten-ton log down a mountain with 50 hefty men clad in fancy gear riding on top …

Oita Prefecture in Japan is a Haven of Onsen and Beautiful Scenery images

Oita Prefecture in Japan is a Haven of Onsen and Beautiful Scenery

"Get the latest updates here on Deep Japan as we collaborate with Tokyo Broadcasting System(TBS) Television, JNN(Japan News Network/TBS nation wide affiliates)'s seven-station network across Japan an…

Nagano Prefecture is One of Japan’s Must Visit All Year Round Destinations images

Nagano Prefecture is One of Japan’s Must Visit All Year Round Destinations

"Get the latest updates here on Deep Japan as we collaborate with Tokyo Broadcasting System(TBS) Television, JNN(Japan News Network/TBS nation wide affiliates)'s seven-station network across Japan an…

You might also like

Japanese sweets : “Monaka” images

Japanese sweets : “Monaka”

One of the most popular sweets among Japanese people is “Monaka”, which is made of rice (glutinous rice). Glutinous rice is kneaded and spread into a thin layer. It becomes a skin of monaka and bean …

OKAKI-sun image

OKAKI-sun

2-Day Trip to Fujigoko (Five Lakes of Mt. Fuji) in winter 1/3 images

2-Day Trip to Fujigoko (Five Lakes of Mt. Fuji) in winter 1/3

What do you think about visiting Mt. Fuji in winter and enjoy snow and Japanese high quality Omotenashi? Most people climb or visit Mt. Fuji during either spring or summer time. Unless you really lov…

ZEROIN -INTERNSHIP image

ZEROIN -INTERNSHIP

My Top 7 Japan Travel Advice for Filipinos images

My Top 7 Japan Travel Advice for Filipinos

Due to its popularity, Japan remains among the top country’s Filipino travelers want to visit. I can only agree that this is a good choice since the country has so much to offer. Even though it is fa…

Ada image

Ada

The Top 8 Places to Beat Summer Heat in Japan images

The Top 8 Places to Beat Summer Heat in Japan

Where do Japanese love to visit to avoid summer heat in Japan? I searched the top 8 summer resorts loved by Japanese including Furano in Hokkaido, Okinawa, Karuizawa and Hakone, which are famous amon…

Alexlovetravel image

Alexlovetravel

Mt. Fuji access guide; trains and buses for Lake Kawaguchiko area. images

Mt. Fuji access guide; trains and buses for Lake Kawaguchiko area.

If you will visit Mount Fuji (富士山), Kawaguchiko Station (河口湖駅) or Mt. Fuji Station (富士山駅) are major gateways for magical Mount Fuji, designated as a world cultural heritage site in 2013, a…

Hagi image

Hagi

Tokyo Doitsu Mura images

Tokyo Doitsu Mura

I never have figured out why places, that are clearly not in Tokyo, are still designated as "Tokyo" something or other. Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea are in Chiba folks, not Tokyo. That being sai…

Kevin image

Kevin