Top 5 Cherry Blossom Sightseeing Spots in Nagano Prefecture

Spring is here! The temperature is picking up, the birds are singing, and lots of flowers are blooming. That also goes for the sakura or cherry blossoms, a Japanese icon that’s loved by people all over the world.

The blooming of the cherry blossoms is a special event that many people look forward to and is celebrated nationwide with a so-called hanami or cherry blossom viewing party and by indulging in some of the many cherry-blossom-flavored foods and drinks that are available during this period. The transient beauty of these pink flowers is certainly the biggest reason why the cherry blossom season is one of the most popular times to visit Japan.

To help you plan your trip and enjoy the cherry blossoms to the fullest, we’ve summed up our top 5 spots in Nagano that you cannot miss out on while you’re here during this wonderful season.

1. Mt. Kobo, Matsumoto City

Our favorite spot to visit for the cherry blossom trees is Koboyama or Mt. Kobo in Matsumoto. With a whopping 4,000 trees (!) planted all around, this place turns into a mesmerizing pink paradise in spring. However, there aren’t any cherry blossoms on top of Mt. Kobo, and instead you will find a kofun, a burial mound, which is believed to be the oldest one in Eastern Japan and dates back to the late 3rd century.

While the burial mound itself might not be too interesting to look at by itself, the “bald spot” on top of Mt. Kobo is great for taking panoramic photos of the cherry blossoms with Matsumoto City and the Japan Alps in the background. Also, if you go down toward the trees a little, it’s the perfect place to spend some time having a picnic as there’s plenty of space to relax. Mt. Kobo is located a bit further away from the city center, so if you’re planning to go, we recommend you take a bus or rent a bike.

Best Time to Visit: Early to Mid-April (usually peaks a little later than Matsumoto Castle)

How to Get There: Take the local Namiyanagidanchi Line bus from the Matsumoto Bus Terminal to the Koboyama Iriguchi bus stop (takes about 15 minutes). Be aware that buses are very infrequent and only run about once every 2 hours. Rental bicycles are available in front of Matsumoto Station and the Matsumoto Bus Terminal.
Google Maps

2. Takato Castle Ruins Park, Ina City

A sea of pink amid the mountains (🄫 Nagano Prefecture / © JNTO)

Arguably the most popular sightseeing spot for cherry blossoms among the locals is the Takato Castle Ruins Park. Said to be one of the top three cherry blossom spots in Japan, there are about 1,500 trees spread around the park which also features the red-roofed Takatokaku (Takato Pavillion), a drum tower and shrine among other things. What makes this place so special is the variety of cherry blossom which has deeper pink color than normal, making the Takato Castle area stand out among its surroundings from miles away. The annual cherry blossom event held in early to mid-April in the park attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, but despite the crowds it’s most definitely worth a visit.

Best Time to Visit: Early to Mid-April

How to Get There: Take the train to Inashi Station, then transfer to a JR Bus and get off at Takato Bus Station (bus takes about 20 minutes). During the cherry blossom season, there is also a bus going to Takato Bus Station from Chino Station (takes about 50 minutes). From Takato Bus Station, it takes about 15 minutes on foot to get to the Takato Castle Ruins Park.
Google Maps

3. Matsumoto Castle, Matsumoto City

Matsumoto has many great places to see cherry blossoms and Matsumoto Castle is certainly one of them. There’s not only the impressive castle, but also a beautiful park surrounding it as well as a spacious garden once you enter the castle grounds that feature over 300 cherry blossoms in total. The park is quite spacious and lots of people gather here during the cherry blossom season to have a hanami. There’s also a nighttime cherry blossom viewing event during this time, where the cherry blossoms are illuminated, and traditional Japanese music is performed live.

Best Time to Visit: Early to Mid-April

How to Get There: Walk from Matsumoto Station (takes about 15 minutes). Or take the Town Sneaker bus (North Course) or the Utsukushigahara Onsen-bound bus from Matsumoto Station and get off at the “Matsumotojo-Shiyakushomae” bus stop (takes about 5 minutes).
Google Maps

To find out what else there is to see and do in Matsumoto City, check out our Tourism Guide!

4. Garyu Park, Suzaka City

Selected as one of Japan’s top 100 cherry blossom spots, Garyu Park is a picturesque park in Suzaka City which is located less than an hour away from Nagano Station. Inside the park, you’ll find a beautiful pond called the Ryugaike Pond that’s surrounded by cherry blossoms. The cherry blossom trees are reflected on the pond’s surface, creating a mesmerizing image which is only enhanced once the cherry blossom leaves start falling and float on the water. There’s also the Suzaka City Zoo, a small zoo that’s great fun for younger children. As with most cherry blossom spots, a festival is held in early to mid-April where the trees are illuminated at night. While you’re there, try out some of the “black oden” at one of the food stalls in the park. This Japanese one-pot dish is darker in color than normal due to its broth and is highly popular among the locals.

Best Time to Visit: Mid-April

How to Get There: Take the local Nagano Dentetsu train from Nagano Station to Suzaka Station and walk for about 20 minutes or take the bus (5 min. with local Seni or Yonago bus) from there to the Garyu Park entrance.

To find out what else there is to see and do in Nagano City, check out our Tourism Guide!

5. Ueda Castle Ruins, Ueda City

Ueda Castle (IMG_1166 by Kimon Berlin / CC BY-SA)

The last castle on our list, Ueda Castle was built near the end of the Sengoku (Warring States) period in Japan, when warlords waged wars against each other to gain control over Japan. While all that remains of the Ueda Castle nowadays is the main gate and watchtowers, it’s still a highly popular sightseeing spot due to its history and the many cherry blossoms that bloom in and around the castle.

In early to mid-April when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, the Ueda Castle Senbon Sakura (thousand cherry blossoms) Festival is being held and the cherry blossoms are illuminated in the evenings. During your visit to Ueda, be sure to also check out Yanagimachi Street, an historic street where you can find traditional Japanese stores such as a sake brewery and a miso shop.

Food stands at Ueda Castle (IMG_1171 by Kimon Berlin / CC BY-SA)

Best Time to Visit: Early to Mid-April

How to Get There: Walk from Ueda Station (takes about 12 minutes), which is direct accessible from Tokyo via the Hokuriku Shinkansen.
Google Maps

As you can see, there are many wonderful spots you can visit in Nagano to see the cherry blossoms. Hopefully this list has given you some ideas of where to go so you can plan your ultimate cherry blossom-filled trip!

Regarding Bus Service Suspensions due to the Spread of COVID-19 (Updated on 2020/05/14)

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