For two weeks in April or May, the streets in Japanese cities such as Kyoto and Tokyo are filled with breathtaking cherry blossoms—and tourists.
The blooms come at different times depending on where in the country you are. In Sapporo, the average full bloom is May 8; in Kyoto it’s April 7; and in Tokyo it’s April 5, according to the Japan Weather Association. Websites, including japan-guide.com, closely track the forecast to let locals and visitors know the best time to see the blooms.
And lots of people take advantage. Millions travel from within Japan to take in their favorite cherry blossom sites, along with visitors from other Asian countries and beyond. In fact, some popular spots can be so crowded that you’ll literally be shoulder to shoulder with other cherry blossom viewers. With that in mind, we pulled together some less popular (read less crowded) spots to view the beautiful blooms.
Monzen-Nakacho Canal in Tokyo
This canal is near the Monzen-Nakacho Station in Tokyo. There are walkways along the water and several bridges to snap photos from. Go in the evening to see lit paper lanterns.
The Takano-gawa River in Kyoto
Kyoto’s most famous river is the Kamo-gawa, and it draws big crowds. Give the less popular Takano-gawa a try—it’s also lined with blossom-filled trees.
Shoujiji Temple in Kyoto
This temple and shrine has beautiful grounds filled with cherry trees, but since it’s outside the center of Kyoto, it draws fewer crowds.
Shoseien Gardens in Kyoto
These gardens surrounding the Higashi Honganji Temple are perfectly landscaped with ponds, a variety of trees, and cherry blossoms. But the temple isn’t as well known to visitors, so it usually isn’t too crowded.
Denpoin Garden in Tokyo
This hidden garden is part of the Sensoji Temple and is only open a few weeks a year, but luckily the season corresponds with cherry blossom blooms.
Sumida River Park in Tokyo
The walkways along the river are filled with crowds, but for some reason people seem to miss this park. Learn from their mistake, and make sure to spend some time there.