Where are the Best Blossoms in Nagano?
As one of Japan’s largest prefectures, Nagano has numerous blossom-viewing spots to choose from. Blooming later than Tokyo and other coastal areas thanks to the region’s higher elevation, expect the blossoms of Nagano to be at their best from early-April onward.
For visitors coming from Tokyo or beyond, many of the sites listed below can be reached using the Hokuriku Shinkansen running from Tokyo to Kanazawa via Nagano. Here are some of the best spots to enjoy them:
INA, NAGANO / best: early-April
Takato Castle Park is home to over 1500 ‘kohigan’ blossom trees and often cited as one of Japan’s Top 3 blossom sites. The official festival is timed for ‘mankai’ (peak bloom), with festival dates announced early each year as the blossom forecast is released.
In full bloom, the canopy of white and pink floats about the expansive grounds of the park, which draws visitors from all over Japan. Evening is a particularly beautiful time to visit, as the trees are lit-up and the canopy of blossoms glows pink in the night.
Festival stalls selling food, snacks and drinks along with traditional games for children pop-up throughout the park, with traditional music performances combining to keep the many visitors entertained and well-fed throughout the day and into the night.
Located approximately 2 hours to the south of Nagano City, the park is difficult to reach using public transport and best experienced on a tour. Our 1-Day Takato Castle Park Cherry Blossom Tour combines a visit to Takato with Matsumoto Castle’s evening cherry blossom festival – see below for details.
KOMORO, NAGANO / best: early-April
Another spot often cited as one of Japan’s best to enjoy the blossoms of spring, Komoro Castle Park is easy to reach from Tokyo using the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Karuizawa Station, followed by the local Shinano Railway to Komoro Station. Much like Takato, Komoro Kaikoen is another park set on the ruins of a castle dating back to the 15th century.
Only the walls and gate remain, marking the entrance to the park and your immersion within the 500-odd blossom trees including the classic ‘yoshino’. ‘shidarezakura’, ‘higanzakura’ and local ‘Komoro yaebenishidare’ varieties. To celebrate the bloom, the park plays host to a spring festival with the usual array of vendors, families and groups of friends setting-up in the park to enjoy the beauty of the blossoms with plenty of food and drink.
UEDA, NAGANO / best: early-April
Ueda Castle Park is blessed with numerous blossom trees set within the picturesque grounds, sitting atop the foundations of the former castle. Though the castle is now gone, several reconstructed buildings sit among the splendid blossom trees, which along with numerous food stalls and vendors during peak bloom, makes Ueda one of the most popular blossom-viewing destination in Nagano.
In mid-April, the park plays host to the ‘Ueda Castle Sen-Bon Sakura Festival’ – another hugely popular festival which draws visitors from all over Japan. Translating as the ‘1000 Cherry Trees’ festival, you get a sense of just what to expect – countless spectacular trees in bloom spread across the broad grounds of the park.
As expected, plenty of vendors are on-hand to make sure you’re well-fed and drinks are in steady supply, with the canopy lit-up at night it is a truly magical atmosphere and easily enjoyed from Tokyo. The park is within 15-minutes walk of Ueda Station, a convenient stop on the Hokuriku Shinkansen.
NAGANO CITY, NAGANO / early-April to mid-April
For visitors in Nagano City, Zenko-ji Temple is particularly beautiful in spring as the surrounding blossom trees, set against the backdrop of the famous temple, offer outstanding photo opportunities. Around 20-minutes walk from Nagano Station, the city’s famous Zenko-ji Temple/Joyama Park precinct is the best spot to see the blossoms in central Nagano City. The near-1400 year old temple complex has several spectacular trees which set against the beauty of the historic buildings and streetscape offer some truly beautiful photography.
While there, take the time to wander a little further north to Joyama Park. Popular with local families, the park is ringed by different types of blossom trees which form a delightful corridor to walk under. When in full bloom, Joyama Park is without doubt the best spot to enjoy cherry blossoms in Nagano City (pictured below).
Around 30-minutes by local bus from Nagano Station, Matsushiro Castle Park is the central focus of Nagano’s famous samurai town – Matsushiro – and blessed with some of the region’s most beautiful blossoms. While all original structures other than the foundation walls are now gone, several buildings including the park’s impressive gate have been thoughtfully restored with many mature cherry blossoms trees now populating the park.
Typically blooming in the first week of April, the Matsushiro Spring Cherry Blossom Festival takes place of the second Saturday of the month, with performances and events happening in the park with the usual array of food and drink vendors on-hand to ensure an enjoyable day-out.
Along with famous destinations, we highly recommend searching-out local sites which offer some of the best cherry blossom experiences. Located 30 minutes walk from Suzaka Station, Suzaka Garyu Park is a fantastic option for visitors wanting to enjoy a truly local hanami event.
Encircling a lake and lined with blossom trees, when in full bloom Suzaka Garyu is a stunning sight, popular with local families and friends. During peak bloom, food stalls and other vendors are popular with local residents, who stroll slowly around the lake savouring the sights, smells, and tastes of Japan in spring.
MATSUMOTO, NAGANO / best: early-April
As one of Central Japan’s most iconic landmarks, Matsumoto Castle is also a popular cherry blossom-viewing location. The sight of the castle – surrounded by pink blooms with the snow-capped peaks of the Northern Alps shining in the distance – has become representative of spring in the region.
As one of Japan’s few remaining castles and a registered National Treasure, the illumination of the castle and surrounding blossom trees imbues the precinct with a magical atmosphere – within under 15-minutes walk of Matsumoto Station.
The castle grounds play host to an annual blossom festival timed to coincide with peak bloom – the exact timing of this event therefore varies from year-to-year and is a little tricky to predict. As the weather warms and the bloom can be forecast with some level of certainty, the official beginning of the cherry blossom season will be announced and the festivals will begin three days later. The Night-time Cherry Blossom Viewing will run for eight days and Corridor of Lights will run for ten days.
Also located in Matsumoto, around 20-minutes drive from the station, Koboyama Koen is another public park known for its beautiful array of pink cherry trees. Unlike other parks included on this list, Koboyama sits on an ancient burial mound rather than castle ruins and as such, is a hugely important cultural and archaeological site dating from the 3rd century/the Kofun Period. One of the oldest known tombs in the region, visitors who want to learn more about the Kofun Period can also visit nearby Nakayama Cultural History Museum.
To a clear day, sitting in the park surrounded by the cherry blossoms offers true relaxation and beautiful photography, with the snow-capped North Alps sitting in the background.
AZUMINO, NAGANO / best: early-April
Lying in the rural enclave of Azumino, Hikarujoyama is known for its 400 metre corridor of blossom trees that rise along the side of the small mountain. Known locally as the ‘Rising Dragon Sakura Trail’, you won’t find many non-locals here but visitors that do make the journey from Tokyo and beyond can enjoy some spectacular blossoms and warm reception from locals.
The trees reach full bloom progressively, from the lower reaches to the top, with the uppermost trees blooming later than those at Matsumoto Castle. The path is lit by hanging lanterns at night but there are no shops or stalls along the path, so be prepared before you go. Azumino is around 20 to 30-minutes further on from Matsumoto Station, accessible using the Oito Line.
IIYAMA, NAGANO / best: mid-April
Around 15-munites walk from Iiyama Station, Iiyama Joshi Park is another public park sitting on the foundations of a former castle, boasting some beautiful blossom trees and popular with local residents. A couple of a small reconstructed buildings provide a glimpse of what once stood there with the main focus well and truly on the many large blossom trees in the park.
While the park can’t boast the same popularity or profile as Takato or Ueda – discussed above – Iiyama Joshi is spectacular when in full bloom. A small festival takes place each spring with a handful of vendors setting-up in the park. The real attraction of Iiyama is however that it is notably quieter than other more famous blossom sites yet easily accessible from Tokyo using the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Iiyama Station and a great excuse to combine a morning or afternoon enjoying the blossoms before heading onto nearby Nozawa Onsen for a night or two of hot springs and relaxation.
JOIN A GUIDED CHERRY BLOSSOM TOUR IN NAGANO!
Operating all year round, we are Nagano’s No.1-rated tour and charter operator and come each spring, we are happy to offer two group tours that transport guests to some of the region’s best blossom-viewing spots!
Both tours start and finish at Nagano Station, allowing guests to join us on the day from Tokyo, and should you wish to, return to there at the end of the day. Tour start and end times are coordinated to match shinkansen times operating to and from Nagano from the capital.
Our Special Event: Takato Castle Park Cherry Blossom Tour combines a visit to the renowned blossom spot – considered one of Japan’s best – with lunch at a nearby restaurant and visit to Matsumoto Castle for its blossom festival. With transport included and all led by a locally-based guide, this tour is a great way to enjoy two of Central Japan’s best cherry blossom spots without the hassle of public transport. Exact tour dates will be announced once the festival schedule – timed to coincide with the peak bloom – is made public.
Through April, our 1-Day Snow Monkeys & Cherry Blossoms in Nagano Tour is one of our most popular! Combining a visit to the Jigokudani Monkey Park with lunch and afternoon of blossom-viewing, this tour captures the essence of Nagano in spring. Afternoon blossom-viewing spots are chosen based on where the flowers are at their best on the day and cannot therefore be confirmed prior to the tour.
But rest assured, we do this to ensure our guests have the best possible experience on the day and plenty of the spots mentioned above – plus a couple of secret ones! – are on the list of possible sites.