Golden Week: Hokkaido Places to See Cherry Blossoms

Golden Week is here! Hooray! Time for travel and cherry blossoms!

Or not.

Yep, still quarantine during Corona2020. As such, places that would normally be open during this time are closed to the public to prevent the gathering of too many people. This includes the outdoor parks.

This makes me sad, but what can you do? Again, this is all unprecedented so we have to do what we can to prevent more people from getting infected, or worse, from dying. This is also a way to protect health care workers and not overburden the medical system.

So! This means virtual travel for others. Meanwhile, I’m just going to go through my albums and dig up past photos with cherry blossoms 🙂

Matsumae Castle

Personally, I find Japanese castles to be majestic. What better place to see gorgeous cherry blossoms in bloom than in Matsumae? Since there’s only one castle in all of Hokkaido, this place is a must if you’re looking for dramatic shots of sakura and Japanese architecture.

You can see a little bit of the flowers in the grounds in front of the castle.

Of course, timing does matter when you’re going to visit. Sometimes, you can go too early and won’t catch the flowers in bloom. Sometimes, you can go after when the petals have finally fallen off the trees. Either way, though, I think the best place to see the cherry blossoms are in Matsumae town. I’ve only driven there and have never taken the train or other public transportation to visit. However, I’m sure it’s easily accessible by trains and buses.

We went a little early, but you can imagine the trees in front of the castle when the flowers are in full bloom draping over the canal.

Hakodate Goryokaku Park

Photo from Nippon.com

Hakodate is the most popular place to visit during cherry blossom season in Hokkaido. This usually means crowds and crowds of people. I don’t blame them because it is also very dramatic. Plus the background of the star-shaped fort surrounded by thousands of sakura trees is spectacular. A star-shaped fort in itself is rare, so if you add the flowers, it becomes one of the prized photos that many people love to shoot.

The white variety of cherry blossoms in bloom

However, you can only see the fort from above so that means you have to pay the entrance fee to go up to the tower to take photos. Again, because it gets super crowded during this season, hubby and I never feel the need to be lost in the throng of tourists. If you’re like us, you can always focus on taking your shots from the fort park itself. I think the tower is just as wonderful with the flowers in bloom from the bottom.

This is what you get when you go a little early: big difference.

Hiraoka Park

In terms of sheer numbers, this is one of the biggest parks to go visit for cherry blossoms in Sapporo. Hiraoka Park has thousands of thousands of trees, and that includes the plum trees, too. I never know what the difference is between sakura and ume, so I can’t give you clear details. Suffice it to say that this park is beautiful when all the trees are in full bloom.

The park is very well-situated. There are lots of parking spaces and most people usually drive here. You can take the bus, too, and during this season, the transportation agencies cooperate to give easier access to people without cars. Since the park is big, there’s enough space for everyone to camp out and leisurely enjoy picnics. There are small stores if you feel like buying souvenirs. This is where the famous sakura soft-serve ice cream is sold. There are also several toilet facilities to use, but you still have to line up. If you’re sick of the pink and white flowers, there’s also a branch of the park that has a small stream for exploration.

Neighborhood Parks

One of the beautiful things about living in Japan is that people really do love their cherry blossom trees. This means every park or every roadside usually has one sakura tree. Even if there’s only one, people still stop to take photos. As such, cherry blossom season means you can usually find somewhere local to visit for pictures or a small picnic.

Kitahiroshima Peace Park

The one above is at our local park. Nobody really visits it during the rest of the year, but during sakura season, lots of people go to take photos.

Sapporo Beer Park in Chitose

Some places also set up special areas to enjoy the season more. The one above is at the Sapporo Beer Factory in Chitose City. The place is beautiful when you see the trees exploding in pink flowers, but the selling point is the barbecue tents set up along the river and the grounds. Of course, you can do the barbecue within the building itself, but most people like the outdoor factor so this is a great place to enjoy beer with family and friends–all while looking at the cherry blossoms.

So there you have it. Despite my spring-time allergies, I do like this season a lot. It’s one of my favorite times of the year.

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