1. Izu Peninsula cherry blossoms
    Photo: Minamiizu Town Tourism AssociationShimogamo Onsen, Shizuoka
  2. Nishihirabatake Park
    Photo: Yoshitaka Sato/PixtaNishihirabatake Park, Kanagawa

10 best places to see winter cherry blossoms in Japan – outside of Tokyo

Start your hanami early at these gorgeous winter sakura spots across Japan: Osaka, Kyoto, Shizuoka, Okinawa and more

Kaila Imada
Written by
Kaila Imada
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Waiting patiently for this year’s spring cherry blossoms to appear? You can get a glimpse of spring long before the season rolls around. In Japan, you’ll find beautiful varieties of winter sakura trees that bloom from as early as January through to March. 

Kawazu-zakura is one of the most common winter cherry blossom varieties, and is a tree native to Shizuoka prefecture. These pretty pink flowers usually bloom between February and March. Plus, they have a longer lifespan than their spring cousins and usually last around a month. Other varieties include the vibrant pink kanhi-zakura trees commonly found in Okinawa, and atami-zakura which are indigineous to the coastal city of Atami.

If you’re planning on blossom hopping outside of Tokyo, here are some of the best parks, rivers and scenic spots around Japan to capture these impressive winter blossoms.

RECOMMENDED: Your 2023 spring cherry blossom forecast is here

Early bloomers

You don't have to travel too far from Tokyo to find stunning winter cherry blossom. Acao Forest in Atami, Shizuoka prefecture, is just an hour from the capital city, and its atami-zakura blossoms have already started blooming. Peak season here is from mid-January to early February, so you still have time to see the blossoms across the park's 13 themed flower gardens. There's also a sakura festival at the park's Coeda House café, with a special hanami (flower viewing) picnic available for ¥3,200.

Mitsuike Park, Kanagawa
Photo: Genki/Pixta

Mitsuike Park, Kanagawa

This serene park in Yokohama is home to an extraordinary 1,600 sakura trees in 78 different varieties. The prominent early bloomers here include the kanhi-zakura, trees that often flower from mid-February. As there’s such a wide variety of cherry blossom trees here, you’re bound to see blooms on any visit between mid-February and April. Even better, the park is close to Tokyo and completely free to enter.

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Nishihirabatake Park, Kanagawa
Photo: Yoshitaka Sato/Pixta

Nishihirabatake Park, Kanagawa

Head to the Mt Matsuda Herb Garden at Nishihirabatake Park for two things: sakura and views of Mt Fuji. The park is home to roughly 360 pink kawazu-zakura trees, which bloom in early February, as well as yellow rapeseed flowers. Aside from jaw-dropping views of Mt Fuji, the Herb Garden also gives you panoramic views of Sagami Bay and the Hakone Mountains. Don’t miss the annual festival on the grounds, which takes place from late January to the end of February.

Tsukimi, Oita
Photo: Yuu/Pixta

Tsukimi, Oita

Take a road trip through the city of Tsukimi in Oita prefecture, and you’ll be graced with views of 5,000 kawazu-zakura trees lining the rugged coastline. The cherry blossoms start blooming in early February and usually reach their peak by the middle of the month. You can even catch the Bungo-Suido Kawazu Sakura Festival, which takes place this year from Feburary 5 to March 2, with food stalls and other events set up in the area.

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Nakijin Castle Ruins, Okinawa
Photo: Cybister/Pixta

Nakijin Castle Ruins, Okinawa

Okinawa is much further south than the rest of Japan, so it’s only right that sakura bloom first on the subtropical islands. In Okinawa, you’ll find the kanhi-zakura species of cherry blossoms – they flourish well in humid climates, often blooming from the end of January to the beginning of February. One of the best spots to catch them is at the Nakijin Castle Ruins, one of Okinawa’s Unesco World Heritage Sites. 

Kawazu River, Shizuoka
Photo: Leung Cho Pan/Dreamstime

Kawazu River, Shizuoka

Kawazu-zakura were first discovered back in 1972 in Kawazu, a small town on the Izu Peninsula. Due to the area’s warm weather, it’s one of the first places you can see cherry blossoms in Japan, with trees often blooming from early February to early March. One of the best spots to capture the flowers is along the Kawazu River, just a short ten-minute walk from Kawazu Station. There are approximately 850 trees lining the river and they are also illuminated at night. While you’re there, be sure to head south to catch the sakura lining the Aono River at Shimogamo Onsen.

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Shimogamo Onsen, Shizuoka
Photo: Minamiizu Town Tourism Association

Shimogamo Onsen, Shizuoka

This pink spectacle sees roughly 800 kawazu-zakura trees blooming in and around the Shimogamo Onsen area on the Izu Peninsula. The bulk of the trees stretch down 2km of the Aono River and are also surrounded by brilliant yellow rapeseed flowers. The spot is so beautiful that the local area hosts an annual cherry blossom festival, which this year runs from February 1 to March 10. You can also stop by in the evening, when the sakura trees are illuminated from 6pm to 9pm.

Yodo Suido Waterway, Kyoto
Photo: katudon1967/Photo AC

Yodo Suido Waterway, Kyoto

This little-known spot in Kyoto is home to approximately 200 kawazu-zakura trees planted along a small canal. The flowers here usually hit full bloom from mid-February and stick around until late March. These early bloomers are a bright, vivid pink in contrast to the more white-coloured somei-yoshino variety and are just as beautiful when the petals start to fall and float down the canal.

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Suminoe Park, Osaka
Photo: prof240530/Pixta

Suminoe Park, Osaka

This large park south of central Osaka is well-equipped for physical activity, with a baseball stadium, swimming pool, tennis courts and multiple shrines for a quiet cooldown. However, it’s also known for its flora, especially cherry blossoms. The greenspace boasts colourful plum blossoms and the winter-blooming kanhi-zakura trees from early February. It’s also worth a visit further into sakura season as somei-yoshino trees bloom later in March and April.

Itogawa Promenade, Shizuoka
Photo: Photo Fish/Photo AC

Itogawa Promenade, Shizuoka

This lovely stretch of atami-zakura trees can be found in the quiet hot spring town of Atami. The coastal town is where you'll see these unique trees blooming from late January into early February, and they only last about ten days. A ten-minute walk from Atami Station will take you to the promenade that runs along the Itogawa River, although it’s more of a small stream than a river. The walkway is covered in a pink canopy of Atami-zakura, and you’ll also find charming little restaurants and shops lining the path.

More cherry blossom fun

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