Enjoy Cherry Blossoms in nature-rich Sapporo!

Sapporo is a popular destination where many people visit from home and abroad. Despite being an urban area, you are still close to rich nature Hokkaido is renowned for and you can enjoy fantastic food including seafood and other everyday cuisine loved by locals. Most of the cherry blossoms in other parts of Japan will be gone by the middle of April, but Hokkaido usually has its cherry blossom season in the beginning of May. Even if you miss the blooming season in late March or early April, you will still see beautiful cherry blossoms if you come to Hokkaido! We recommend that you hire a charter vehicle so you can go on a tour of various hanami (cherry blossom viewing) spots in the north.

Popular Hanami Spot Ranking – Sapporo

1. Nakajima Park (Chuo Ward, Sapporo City) https://www.sapporo-park.or.jp/nakajima/

■ Highlights: This park with abundant water and greenery is very popular with locals, and is located near Sapporo’s downtown area, Susukino. You can see a variety of cherry blossoms such as Ezo Yamazakura, Yaezakura, Somei Yoshino and Shidarezakura. Although it’s in an urban area, the park grounds are extensive and comparatively less crowded, which allows you to have a relaxed stroll around the park. As there aren’t any parking nearby, you may want to hire a charter vehicle and ask the driver to drop you off close by.

■ Typical Blooming Season: Early May

Access : https://goo.gl/maps/BJg7PWoy2t82

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■ Hohei-kan: http://www.s-hoheikan.jp/

Hohei-kan is a western-style building that has been designated as an important cultural property of the country as Hokkaido Development Commission Architecture. Used as a hotel when it was first built, inside you can observe an amazing blend of Japanese and Western styles such as ceiling decoration in Japanese style design made with traditional Japanese technology and mantel piece with lacquer finish. Cherry blossoms are also planted in front of the building so you can enjoy the beautiful view of Hohei-kan with the cherry blossoms.

Opening hours: 9:00am ~ 5:00pm (Admission is until 4:30pm)

Closed: 2nd Tuesday of the month

2. Maruyama Park (Chuo Ward, Sapporo City) http://maruyamapark.jp/

■ Highlights: Located about 10 minutes drive away from Sapporo Station, it is famous as Sapporo’s classic hanami (cherry-blossom viewing) spot. You can enjoy the cherry blossom flowers for a relatively long period from late April to mid-May. There are approximately 160 beautiful cherry trees planted at this park, and some people combine cherry blossom viewing with enjoying a Jingiskan barbeque. You can hire a stove and chairs at the park, so let’s organize some meat and vegetables for a barbecue and make it one of the most memorable days of your trip.

■ Typical Blooming Season: late April to mid-May

Access: https://goo.gl/maps/NdDGSvUvrdv

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■ Hokkaido Jingu Shrine: http://www.hokkaidojingu.or.jp/

Created during the Hokkaido pioneering era, many worshippers still visit this shrine today. There are 1,600 cherry trees on the grounds of the shrine, and it is also a famous hanami spot. Despite being in the heart of the city, you can relax in the calm atmosphere with lush greenery. There are many varieties of good luck charms and amulets, so why not take some home as a souvenir?

Gates open: Around 7:00am-4:00pm (varies according to the season)

3. Former Hokkaido Government Office Building (Chuo Ward, Sapporo City) http://www.pref.hokkaido.lg.jp/sm/sum/sk/akarenga.htm

■ Highlight: Also known as a tourist attraction in Hokkaido, this American Neo-Baroque style building is designated as an important cultural property of Japan and is lovingly called “Akarenga (red brick)” by locals. In the cherry blossom season, the contrast of cherry blossoms such as Kasumisakura, Yaezakura, Chishimazakura in full bloom against the retro building is stunning. The archives and historical documents are exhibited inside the building, so visitors can learn about Hokkaido’s history while they are here.

■ Typical Blooming Season: Early May

Access: https://goo.gl/maps/ewW3qd1g5mr

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■ Sapporo City Clock Tower: http://sapporoshi-tokeidai.jp/

The Clock Tower is a famous tourist attraction also known as the symbol of Sapporo. It has been preserved as an important cultural asset of Japan, and exhibits documents related to the development of Hokkaido. It is also a great location for memorial photos. Since it is in the Sapporo city center, you may want to stop by as you head to lunch or dinner.

Opening hours: 8:45am ~ 5:10pm (Admission is until 5:00pm)

4. Moerenuma Park (Sapporo City): https://goo.gl/maps/y9vfBXxjwCs

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■ Highlights: This modern urban park designed by famous Japanese sculptor Isamu Noguchi opened in 2017. There are about 2,600 cherry trees at “Sakura no Mori (Cherry Forest)” in the park, where you can see many different types of cherry blossoms. Not many people would have seen cherry trees still in the developing phase before. It is only around 30 minutes drive away from Sapporo city center, so the access is also convenient.

■ Typical Blooming Season: Early May – Mid May

Access: https://goo.gl/maps/MNutyTmca7E2

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■ Lenfant Qui Reve: https://lenfant-qui-reve.com/index.html

A French restaurant in Moerenuma Park that serves beautiful French cuisine using locally produced seasonal ingredients, and is popular with tourists and locals alike. Although slightly expensive, it is ideal for lunch after exploring Moerenuma Park.

5. Makomanai Park (Minami Ward, Sapporo City) http://www.makomanai.com/koen/index.html

■ Highlights: This park was created on the site of the main venue of 1972 Winter Olympics, and skating rinks and other facilities are still open to the public during winter. Approximately 1000 cherry trees bloom in early May, and about 50,000 natural trees remain on the park grounds. You can encounter many birds in the Makomanai River flowing through the park. This is a location where you can enjoy not only cherry blossom viewing, but also experience rich nature of Hokkaido to the fullest.

Access: https://goo.gl/maps/xfa6mRhjVsK2

■ Typical Blooming Season: Early May – Mid May

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■ Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill:

This location is famous for the statue of American educator Dr. William S. Clark, the frontier spirit of Hokkaido, and is a tourist attraction with magnificent panoramic views. On the hillside you get a great view of the mountains and you can enjoy the beautiful scenery that Hokkaido is renowned for. It is a place where you would like to visit by hiring a charter vehicle for the day.

Avoid the crowds! Sapporo’s Secret Hanami Spots

1. Hokkaido University (Kita Ward, Sapporo City)

Hokkaido University is close to Sapporo station, so you can stop by while you are exploring the city or before/after shopping or meals. It is a convenient place if you want to quickly see cherry blossoms before or after you head somewhere else. Although there aren’t as many cherry trees here, they are nicely scattered around the university, so you can take a good look during your relaxed walk around the premises.

■ Typical Blooming Season: Early May

■ Why is it less crowded?

It will not be crowded as it is within the university grounds and cherry blossoms are not all in one place.

■ Access: https://goo.gl/maps/nSLYH3dDELL2

2. Nakanosawa avenue of cherry blossoms: (Minami Ward, Sapporo City) http://atagojinjya.com/

This is an ordinary road near Makomanai Park, but all of the trees planted along this street are cherry trees. When in full bloom in early May, it becomes “an avenue of cherry blossoms” and even just driving through this street by car is enjoyable.

■ Typical Blooming Season: Early May

■ Why is it less crowded?

It’s a little far from Sapporo city center and there are not many people visiting just to see the cherry blossoms because it is an ordinary road. Since the location is difficult to reach via public transport, you should hire a charter vehicle and make a quick visit in between your sightseeing destinations.

■ Access: https://goo.gl/maps/ipngLTNVadH2

Tips and Tricks on avoiding the crowds

■ Visit early in the morning

If you want to avoid congestion, you can view the cherry blossoms in a relatively relaxing manner if you visit these locations very early in the morning or weekday mornings. Also, many of Hokkaido’s best hanami locations are parks with large grounds, so if you visit early in the morning you should be able to secure a place to have a picnic. At Japanese style hanami (cherry blossom viewing), people bring their own sandwiches or lunch boxes to enjoy a picnic lunch.

■ Avoid the full bloom period

When Hokkaido’s cherry blossoms are in full bloom in early May, it overlaps with Japan’s long holiday period (10 consecutive holidays in 2019). Since many tourists will descend on Hokkaido during that time, all of the famous hanami locations are expected to be crowded. If you avoid the full bloom period and pay a visit in late April or the second week of May, you will encounter less crowds and be able to take some more time appreciating the flowers.

If you decide to visit areas outside of Sapporo, such as Hakodate, Otaru and Kushiro in the east, you will probably find that it will also be less congested.

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