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Complete Guide to Cherry Blossoms in Hakodate & Southern Hokkaido (Best in Early May)

Complete Guide to Cherry Blossoms in Hakodate & Southern Hokkaido (Best in Early May)

Date published: 22 February 2024

Southern Hokkaido is home to various types of cherry trees, including Somei-Yoshino, Ezo-Yamazakura and Chishima-zakura, which are unique to the region. And while Goryokaku is widely recognized as a popular destination for cherry blossom viewing, there are numerous hidden gems that locals swear by.

In this article, we will introduce spots sure to captivate both Southern Hokkaido first-timers as well as more seasoned travelers.

Table of Contents
  1. Cherry Blossoms in Hakodate and Southern Hokkaido
  2. Best Time to Visit Hakodate and Southern Hokkaido for Cherry Blossom Viewing
  3. Five Cherry Blossom Viewing Spots in Hakodate City
  4. Three Sakura Spots in Hokuto City
  5. Two Sakura Spots in Other Areas
  6. Sakura Experiences & Tours in Hakodate
  7. Accommodations Near Sakura Spots
  8. Enjoy Japan’s Hanami Culture in Southern Hokkaido!

Cherry Blossoms in Hakodate and Southern Hokkaido

Image: PIXTA
Image: PIXTA

Located in the southern part of Hokkaido, the Donan area boasts a wealth of attractions, historical buildings, natural vistas, local delicacies, and hot springs, all converging around Hakodate, a well-known tourist destination.

Cherry blossoms in Hokkaido typically bloom about a month later than those in Honshu. However, as the cherry blossom front moves from south to north, sakura season begins earlier in southern Hokkaido.

Before the development of Hokkaido, Japanese settlers other than the Ainu inhabited the region, leading to the planting of many cherry trees around historical structures and parks, such as Goryokaku Park in Hakodate. That’s why in comparison to other areas of Hokkaido, the cherry blossoms in this area exude a more distinct Japanese charm that rivals even those found in other parts of Japan.

Best Time to Visit Hakodate and Southern Hokkaido for Cherry Blossom Viewing

Cherry blossoms in Goryokaku Park (Photo: PIXTA)
Cherry blossoms in Goryokaku Park (Photo: PIXTA)

The prime time to view cherry blossoms is usually from late April to early May, although this timeframe may vary depending on the weather.

Due to the brevity of the cherry blossom season and the influx of tourists, we recommend booking any reservations at hotels and other facilities early. We also recommend dressing warmly for those planning to see the sakura illuminations at night.

While Hakodate is renowned for famous cherry blossom viewing spots like Goryokaku Park, there are a number of other places in the area that offer unique Japanese landscapes of cherry blossoms alongside castles, temples, and shrines. Read on for more information on the bloom forecast and other events.

Five Cherry Blossom Viewing Spots in Hakodate City

1. Goryokaku Park: A Star-Shaped Sakura Spectacle

Photo credit: Hakodate Hakobura
Photo credit: Hakodate Hakobura

Goryokaku is a pentagonal, star-shaped fortress built in the 1860s.

It stood as the final bastion of the old shogunate forces during the Hakodate War, which ensued between the new government and remnants of the shogunate following the restoration of imperial rule, ultimately surrendering in 1869.

The cannons and stone walls from the Hakodate War still remain in the park.

Previously, Goryokaku served as the Hakodate Goyakusho (the Hakodate Magistrate's Office), which oversaw political affairs in the Ezo region.

In 1914, in response to a petition by the citizens of Hakodate, the area was opened to the public as a park.

The 5,000 cherry tree saplings originally planted around the park now bloom in a star-shaped pattern all along Goryokaku.

These cherry blossoms reach their peak around late April to early May, when the Goryokaku Cherry Blossom Festival is also held, complete with nighttime illuminations from sunset to 9 PM.

Next to the park stands the impressive 107-meter Goryokaku Tower, offering visitors a panoramic view of the pink-hued, star-shaped Goryokaku, along with the city of Hakodate, Mount Hakodate, and the Tsugaru Straits.

So pay a visit, and immerse yourself in the beauty of the cherry blossoms that have long been loved by the people of Japan!

2. Hakodate Park: Family Fun with Animals and Amusement Parks!

Photo credit: Hakodate & Minami Hokkaido Travel Guide
Photo credit: Hakodate & Minami Hokkaido Travel Guide

Hakodate Park is a historic park, established in 1879 through the collaborative efforts of four businessmen and the city's residents, inspired by a suggestion from Richard Eusden, a British consul stationed in Hakodate during the Meiji Period.

Eusden proposed that "Just as sick people need a hospital, healthy individuals need a place to unwind."

This park is the sole location in southern Hokkaido featuring a mini amusement park and animal breeding facilities, making it an ideal destination for families seeking a fun outing to enjoy with the kids.

In 1889, a local merchant, Henmi Koemon, planted 5,280 cherry and plum trees over a span of five years with the aspiration of transforming Hakodate Park into a likeness of Yoshino Mountain in Nara Prefecture.

Although most of those trees were sadly destroyed by a fire in the early Showa Period, today, the park boasts nearly 400 cherry trees, mainly of the Somei-Yoshino variety, planted throughout the grounds.

These trees usually reach peak bloom around late April to early May, during which a cherry blossom festival is also held.

At the festival, attendees can also marvel at the trees illuminated by lanterns, with stalls set up in the central plaza.

It’s an event that draws in spectators from all around! (2024 schedule TBA)

  • Hakodate Park
    • Address Aoyagi-cho 17, Hakodate City, Hokkaido 040-0044
    • ・Phone: 0138-30-3126 (Hakodate Housing and Urban Facilities Corporation)
      ・Hours: N/A
      ・Admission: Free
      ・Closed: Open daily

3. Sakuragaoka-dori: An Impressive Cherry Blossom Tunnel Experience

Photo credit: Hakobura
Photo credit: Hakobura

Sakuragaoka-dori is a residential area that has also gained a reputation as a popular cherry blossom viewing spot.

To get there, ride the Hakodate City Tram to Kashiwagi-cho and head west, to where you will find nearly 100 cherry trees, mostly Somei-Yoshino, lining the street for approximately 800 meters, forming a stunning pink tunnel that's truly a sight to behold!

These trees usually peak from around late April to early May.

However, as daytime tends to bring in crowds of people and traffic, we recommend early morning for the optimal viewing experience.

The tunnel, especially as viewed from the street, serves as a particularly popular photo spot!

However, do remember that this is a residential area, so be sure to mind your manners, and don’t block traffic.

Why not set your alarm early and head out for a morning stroll before breakfast?

  • Sakuragaoka Street
    • Address Kashiwagi-cho 1, Hakodate-shi, Hokkaido 042-0942
    • Admission: Free

4. Sumiyoshi Shrine: Sakura Surround the Tsugaru Straits on the Approach to the Shrine

Photo credit: Hakobura
Photo credit: Hakobura

Sumiyoshi Shrine, located seven minutes on foot from the Yajigashira stop on the Hakodate City Tram Line, traces back to the Kamakura Period.

During the Edo Period, it is said that Hakodate magistrates dedicated a stone lantern to the shrine, praying for protection against foreign threats.

In 1934, the Great Fire of Hakodate ravaged the shrine's structures, and a temporary shrine was built on the former site of Miyoshi Shrine.

The two shrines later merged, and in the following year, was relocated and renamed Sumiyoshi Shrine.

Between late April and early May, Somei-Yoshino trees form an enchanting 100-meter-long tunnel of cherry blossoms along the approach to the shrine.

The hilltop leading to the shrine grounds offers a breathtaking view of the Tsugaru Straits and the cityscape with the cherry blossoms as a backdrop, a scene that is distinctively Hakodate.

Visitors are invited to enjoy the cherry blossoms, an enduring symbol cherished by Japan throughout history, amidst the shrine’s serene ambiance.

  • Sumiyoshi Shrine
    • Address 1-7 Sumiyoshi-cho, Hakodate-shi, Hokkaido 040-0045
    • Phone Number 0138-22-2608
    • ・Phone: 0138-30-3126 (Hakodate Housing and Urban Facilities Corporation)
      ・Hours: N/A
      ・Admission: Free
      ・Closed: Open daily

5. Trappistine Abbey: Cherry Blossoms Embrace the Brick Cathedral

Photo credit: Hakodate City Official Tourism Site
Photo credit: Hakodate City Official Tourism Site

Trappistine Abbey, located in the suburbs of Hakodate, was founded in 1898 as Japan's first convent for women.

In 1927, it underwent reconstruction, where the nuns embrace a communal lifestyle centered around prayer, work, and sacred readings, serving as the core elements of their daily routine.

The public area is open to all, including men, and features a reference room attached to the store, offering insights into life at the convent and its history.

Cherry blossoms grace the grounds of the Abbey from around late April to mid-May every year.

The juxtaposition of the pure white statue of Mary against the backdrop of pink cherry blossoms creates a breathtakingly beautiful sight, captivating all who behold its innocent charm.

Access is a short walk from the Trappistine-mae stop along the Hakodate Bus Route 5 (Goryokaku Tower Trappistine Shuttle Bus), or 10 minutes on foot from the Trappistine Iriguchi stop on the local bus line.

Please note, however, that the Trappistine Abbey is not a tourist destination, rather a place of prayer.

So if you’re planning to visit to see the cherry blossoms, remember to be quiet and respectful during your stay.

  • Our Lady of the Angels Trappistine Monastery
    天使の聖母 トラピスチヌ修道院
    • Address Kamiyukawa-cho, Hakodate-shi, Hokkaido 042-0914
    • Phone Number 0138-57-2839
    • ・Hours: 9 AM - 11:30 AM, 2 PM - 4:30 PM
      ・Admission: Free
      ・Closed: Open daily

Three Sakura Spots in Hokuto City

6. Hokkiji Temple: Illuminated Weeping Cherry Trees Offer Splendid Beauty

Photo credit: Hokuto City Tourism Association
Photo credit: Hokuto City Tourism Association

Hokuto City is a neighboring town of Hakodate and home to JR Shin-Hakodate Hokuto Station, a stop on the Hokkaido Shinkansen bullet train line, where a new cherry blossom viewing spot called Sakura Kairo (Cherry Blossom Corridor) has been gaining much attention.

Each spot is illuminated and offers a different atmosphere from the other famous spots in Hakodate.

The blooming period typically spans from mid-April to late May, coinciding with the "Hokuto Cherry Blossom Corridor Coupon-Included Stamp Rally.”

Visitors are encouraged to participate in this event, which not only allows them to enjoy the scenic views, but also offers discounts for shopping!

Located a 10-minute drive from JR Shin-Hakodate Hokuto Station, Hokkiji Temple is a historic temple dating back to 1849.

The weeping cherry tree on the temple grounds is estimated to be 300 years old, predating the development of Hokkaido itself!

It stands majestically at a height of about 12 meters, its long, drooping branches adorned with countless flowers that bloom annually from around late April to mid-May.

The weeping cherry trees of places like Miharu, Fukushima, and Gion, Kyoto are well known across Japan.

However, weeping cherry trees of this size are rare in Hokkaido, making it an extraordinary sight that draws in visitors from far and wide.

During peak season, visitors can delight in the illumination of this remarkable tree, usually held between 6:30-9 PM.

  • Hokkiji Temple
    • Address 1-14-13 Mukono, Hokuto-shi, Hokkaido 041-1231
    • TEL: 0138-77-8322 (Hokkiji Temple)

7. Along the Ono River: A 300-Meter Stretch of Blooming Somei-Yoshino Trees

Photo credit: Hokuto City Tourism Association
Photo credit: Hokuto City Tourism Association

On the opposite bank of Hokkiji Temple stands nearly 100 cherry trees, mostly of the Somei-Yoshino variety.

These trees line both sides of the Hongo Kawaramachi Dori town road, which stretches north-south along the Ono River for about 300 meters.

These cherry trees were planted in 1959 as a collaborative effort between the townspeople to commemorate the wedding of the then Crown Prince.

The trees reach peak bloom around late April to mid-May each year, and are illuminated from 6:30 to 9 PM to the delight of passersby.

Additionally, in 1989, 37 young double-flowered cherry trees, about 3 cm in diameter each, were planted on the bank between Hongo Bridge and Kashima Bridge as a memorial to commemorate the accession of Emperor Heisei to the throne.

  • Ono River Sakura Corridor
    • Address Honmachi 2-chōme-10-32, Hokuto-shi, Hokkaido 041-1201

8. Matsumae Clan Hekirichi Jinya Ruins: An 800-Meter Tunnel of Cherry Blossoms

Photo credit: Hokuto City Tourism Association
Photo credit: Hokuto City Tourism Association

Located about 20 minutes by car from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station, the Ruins of Matsumae Clan Hekirichi Jinya are at their best from late April to mid-May each year, when the cherry blossom tunnel stretching approximately 800 meters from the road to the camp ruins is at its peak. A jinya is a significant castle held by the lord of a small clan.

Hekirichi Jinya, built by the Matsumae clan in 1855, was the first Western-style star-shaped castle in Japan, and stands as one of the two remaining nationally-designated historic site castle ruins in Hokuto City.

Matsumae Hekirichi Jinya faced an assault during the Hakodate War, leaving behind only earthen mounds and vacant moats as remnants today.

The Hokuto Jinya Cherry Blossom Festival (held in April 22, 2023; 2024 TBD) takes place during peak period.

A brass band performance livens up the festival's opening, while local Hokuto City delicacies attract visitors to enjoy the cherry blossoms and the food.

  • Matsumae Clan Hekirichi Jinya Ruins
    • Address Nozaki, Hokuto-shi, Hokkaido 049-0158

Two Sakura Spots in Other Areas

9. Matsumae Park: A Sakura-Surrounded Castle as Only Seen in Hokkaido!

Photo credit: Hakodate & Minami Hokkaido Travel Guide
Photo credit: Hakodate & Minami Hokkaido Travel Guide

About a two-hour drive from Hakodate City lies Matsumae, a castle town known for its cherry blossoms.

Matsumae Park, home to Matsumae Castle, boasts an area of nearly 248,000 square meters, and is planted with nearly 10,000 cherry trees of around 250 varieties.

The cherry blossoms typically start blooming in late April, and thanks to a variety of early, mid, and late bloomers, visitors can delight in the cherry blossoms for about a month.

The Matsumae Cherry Blossom Festival (2024 TBD) is an annual event held from late April to mid-May, during which lights are lit up from sunset until around 9:00 PM.

At this time, hanami stalls grace the park, and the cherry blossoms are gorgeously illuminated by LED lights specially designed for sakura, alongside local performances passed down the generations.

One of these is the Matsumae Kagura, a dance registered as an important intangible folk cultural property.

It’s an exciting event that draws in numerous attendees every year.

Visitors can also enjoy a wonderful view of the entire Matsumae Park, including Matsumae Castle, and the Tsugaru Straits.

So plan a visit, and see the sights for yourself!

  • Matsumae Park
    • Address Matsushiro, Matsumae-cho, Matsumae-gun, Hokkaido 049-1511

10. Morimachi Oniushi Park: A Cherry Blossom Haven, Home to 19 Sakura Species

Photo credit: Morimachi
Photo credit: Morimachi

Located about an hour from JR Hakodate Station, Morimachi is known for its cherry blossoms. Oniushi Park derives its name from Ainu, meaning "place with many trees," and is the namesake of Morimachi.

The park offers a panoramic 360-degree view of Mount Komagatake and, on clear days, Mount Yotei and Mount Usu.

The park is home to about 500 cherry trees of 19 varieties, including the Komamizakura, which is endemic to Morimachi, and the Horiihizakura. There’s also an observatory at the roadside station attached to the park, allowing visitors to gaze down upon the entire park and the sea.

In addition, the Morimachi Cherry Blossom Festival is set to take place at the nearby Aobagaoka Park from April 27 to May 12, 2024), featuring a singing performance as the main event. Various interactive events will also be held, as well as the "Banba Taikai,” or Horse Pull Contest, at the livestock site.

  • Onioushi Park
    • Address 326 Kamidai-cho, Mori-cho, Kayabe-gun, Hokkaido 049-2311
    • ・Phone: 01374-7-1286 (Mori Tourist Association)
      ・Hours: N/A

Sakura Experiences & Tours in Hakodate

Tours and private charters are fun and easy ways to visit a number of cherry blossom spots across a wide area of attractions, so be sure to check them out, as well!

Accommodations Near Sakura Spots

The following is a list of recommended accommodations in Hakodate and nearby areas. Early reservations are recommended as they tend to fill up quickly during cherry blossom season.

Enjoy Japan’s Hanami Culture in Southern Hokkaido!

Photo credit: Hakodate City Official Tourism Site
Photo credit: Hakodate City Official Tourism Site

For the people of Japan, cherry blossoms hold a special significance. Their beauty and elegance, especially when they fall, are often likened to how people live their lives. And cherry blossom viewing, where people feast outdoors while appreciating the blossoms, has also become an integral part of Japanese culture.

Hokkaido is an ideal setting for cherry blossom viewing at various times of the year, as the blossoms typically bloom later than in Honshu. So take a trip and relish the stunning sakura of southern Hokkaido, where sakura season starts the earliest.

*Information in article as of February 2024. Please see official websites for the latest updates & information.

English translation by: Krys Suzuki

Written by:

Masakazu Yoshida

Masakazu Yoshida

Residing in Sapporo, Masakazu has built his career in various private enterprises and government positions in Hokkaido. In April 2016, he transitioned from being a company employee to a freelance writer. Currently, Masakazu works as a freelance writer alongside other occupations, primarily focusing on showcasing the charm of Hokkaido through web media platforms.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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