Spring is on the way and that means just one thing: Nagano will soon be covered in cherry blossoms and vibrant flowers! From Nagano’s historical sightseeing spots to its wide-open nature parks, you can see brilliant displays of spring around the prefecture from late March to May.
At the same time, snow still covers the mountain tops. The combination of spring flowers and the snow-capped Japanese Alps is one of the highlights of the season. If you’d like to see the snow up close, there are several highland areas such as the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route where you can enjoy towering snow walls and carpets of white.
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Cherry Blossoms in Nagano
Nagano is a mountainous prefecture and is long from North to South, meaning that its cherry blossoms bloom over a long period beginning in late March and continuing to the beginning of May.
Last year’s cherry blossoms came in exceptionally early, but so far, the cherry blossom predictions for this year have not been as extreme. Most spots will reach peak bloom a few days earlier than average. Our estimated peak dates are included next to each cherry blossom spot below. The best time to view them is usually within a week of that date. See our cherry blossom watch page for up-to-date bloom info.
Cherry Blossoms and the Japanese Alps
Counter-clockwise from top: Omachi Park (Omachi City), Mt. Hikarujo (Azumino City), Oide Park (Hakuba Village)
You can enjoy spring scenery that you can’t see anywhere else: vibrant, pink cherry blossoms paired with the snow-capped Japanese Alps. Many ski resorts are still open during April, and the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route opens from April 15th. Enjoy spring and winter at once in Nagano!
Head towards the Northern Japanese Alps for the best views. Oide Koen (April 28th), located just a short walk from Hakuba Station, is an idyllic park along the Hime River. Cherry trees and traditional kominka buildings surround the park with the magnificent snow-capped alps in the background. Farther south in the town of Omachi is Omachi Park (April 18th), which sits above the city with fabulous views of the mountains. In Azumino you’ll find Mt. Hikarujo (April 20th), where cherry trees climb the mountain like a dragon rising in the sky. You can take the hiking path up to the top in about 40 minutes and enjoy cherry blossoms and great mountain views along the way.
Cherry Blossoms in Nagano’s Historical Sites
Counter-clockwise from top: Ueda Castle (Ueda City), Matsumoto Castle (Matsumoto City), Komoro Kaikoen Park (Komoro City)
Nagano’s most popular sightseeing areas have their fair share of cherry trees as well. Walk around ancient castle grounds and enjoy the bounty of spring.
Matsumoto Castle (April 10th) is a must-see attraction any time of year, but especially beautiful during spring with over 300 cherry trees in bloom on the castle grounds. You can also see the distant Japanese Alps on a clear day. Ueda Castle (April 8th) is known for its cherry blossoms and has over 1,000 trees planted around the castle ruins. In nearby Komoro, you can see the remains of a very different kind of castle at the Komoro Kaikoen Park (April 21st). Built on a low plot, this castle’s grounds are obscured by forest and labyrinthian walls. Enjoy beautiful cherry blossoms among Komoro Castle’s ancient remains.
Counter-clockwise from top: Takato Castle Park (Ina City), Garyu Park (Suzaka City), Ueda Castle (Ueda City)
Cherry blossoms are especially beautiful when illuminated in the evening. In Suzaka City’s Garyu Park (April 14th), you can enjoy night light-ups of over 800 cherry trees as well as a festive hanami atmosphere. About a quarter of these trees surround a pond in the center of the park, and their blossoms are reflected beautifully in the water’s surface.
Takato Castle Park (April 12th) in Ina City is one of Japan’s top three cherry blossom spots. Featuring a unique variety of cherry called Takato Kohigan Zakura, the cherry blossoms grow in so densely that they completely block out the sky during full bloom. At night, the trees are illuminated in a rainbow of colors.
Other cherry blossom spots mentioned above also have illuminations, such as Matsumoto Castle, Ueda Castle, and Komoro Kaikoen.
Lesser Known Cherry Blossom Spots
Counterclockwise from top: Nitanda no Sakura (Ogawa Village), Koboyama (Matsumoto City), Chikumagawa Teibo no Sakura (Obuse Town)
You can find cherry blossoms spots almost anywhere in Nagano, both in the heart of the city and spread across the countryside. As you travel around, you may find that your favorite spot isn’t one of the crowded parks, but rather a singular cherry tree that grows between terraced rice fields. The following spots are popular among local residents, but are still not on international travelers’ radars just yet.
Nitanda no Sakura, a hill covered in cherry blossoms in Ogawa Village, blooms in late April. The many varieties of cherry paint the hill in myriad shades of pink, in contrast with the brilliant, white Japanese Alps in the distance.
Koboyama, located south of Matsumoto City, is a small hill that overlooks the urban sprawl and is covered in over 4,000 cherry trees.
In Obuse, along the Chikuma River can be found the Chikumagawa Teibo no Sakura (April 28th), over 600 Yaezakura trees spanning a length of 4 kilometers. At the same time, you can see fields of flowering nanohana and snowy mountains in the distance.
More Spring Flowers
Cherry blossoms aren’t the only spring flowers to see. There are yellow nanohana, red hanamomo, purple azaleas and more around Nagano. This year, Nagano is also hosting the Shinshu Hana Festa, a celebration of spring from late April to mid-June.
Shinshu Hana Festa
This year, Nagano Prefecture will be celebrating a new spring event on a massive scale: the Shinshu Hana Festa! Three venues (Matsumoto Skyland Park, Alps Azumino Park Hotaka Area, Alps Azumino Park Omachi Area) will feature grand displays of flowers from April 25th to June 16th, 2019, all at the base of the Japanese Alps.
The main venue, Matsumoto Skyland Park, will feature the Northern Alps Flower Hill, where you can enjoy stunning views of the Alps and over 150,000 spring flowers. In the Alps Azumino Park, you can enjoy colorful tulips and lilies.
Flowers Around Nagano
Counter-clockwise from top: Anzu no Sato (Chikuma City), Hirugami Onsen Hanamomo (Achi Village), Alps Azumino National Park Tulips (Azumino City), Iiyama Nanohana Festival (Iiyama City)
Located in Chikuma city, Anzu no Sato is one of the largest apricot-growing areas in Japan, producing upwards of 660 tons of fruit a year. The trees bloom from early to mid-April, carpeting the fields in warm pink. In late June to July, the trees produce fruit and you can enjoy them raw or in jams and other sweets.
From mid-April to Early May, the peach blossoms of Hirugami Onsen burst forth in shades of red, white and pink, covering a vast area between the Kiso and Ina valleys. This peaceful, countryside area is surrounded by mountains and famous for its incredible starry skies.
Alps Azumino Park is at the foot of the Japanese Alps. From mid April to mid May, tulips cover the fields and bloom together with cherry blossoms.
In Iiyama, nanohana blossoms cover the fields along the Chikuma River, turning everything a sunny yellow. The park is located on a small hill and has great views of the surrounding countryside. The Iiyama Nanohana Festival will be held from May 3rd to 5th, 2019.
Lingering Snow in the Mountains
While Nagano’s valley areas are filled with flowers, the mountains are stilled covered in snow. Enjoy skiing or snowboarding at large ski resorts until May, and see giant walls of snow high in the mountains. Spring has begun, but winter isn’t gone just yet!
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route connects Nagano and Toyama Prefectures using six different types of transportation along the way. From April 15th until mid-July, you can see snow walls at the 2,450-meter-high Murodo area. Other highlights include the Kurobe Dam, the highest altitude arch dam in Japan.
From April to June, you can see the lingering snow at Senjojiki Cirque, a glacial formation at an altitude of over 2,600 meters high. During April, it even operates as a basic ski resort, and people can still enjoy snowshoeing here. On clear days, you can see magnificent views of the Southern Japanese Alps.
Norikura Kogen Snow Walls
Norikura Kogen, a highland area to the west of Matsumoto City, sits at the base of Mt. Kengamine and ranges in altitude from 1,200 to 2,600 meters high. During spring, the road to the top of the mountain is opened and visitors can take a bus to see the large snow walls that remain after winter. While not as tall as those found at the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, the snow walls still reach heights up to ten meters! The Haruyama Bus is planned to run from April 27th to June 30th, 2019. See details of last year’s snow corridor here.