Nagano’s Top Cherry Blossom Spots

March 4th, 2016 by
Category: Events, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing
The Northern Alps stand white above a beautiful wood of blooming cherry trees

Cherry blossoms and snow make a beautiful pair.

Spring is on its way and that means it’s time to break out those blue tarps, make some rice balls and drink plenty of local beer and sake. It’s cherry blossom viewing time! There are a lot of beautiful spots to enjoy them here in Nagano prefecture, where the mountains add a beautiful touch of white to the spring scenery. Who knew you could see sakura and snow at the same time?

This year’s blossoms should be coming in a few days earlier than last year. Because Nagano is quite long from North to South, expect different areas to have noticeably different bloom schedules. I have included some dates for best viewing with each entry. Weather is fickle and subject to change, so check the weather and Sakura Forecasts occasionally for updates!

For tips on car navigation to these sightseeing spots, click here.

Takato Castle Park, Ina city

A traditional Japanese castle gate and bridge are obscured by bright, pink cherry blossoms.

Takato Castle Park (courtery of the Ina Tourism Association)

Takato Castle Park is arguably the most famous place to see cherry trees in all of Nagano prefecture (and part of Japan’s top 100). Its unique Takato-kohigan variety of tree is considered one of the most beautiful in Japan because of its dense branches and light pink blossoms. During full bloom the flowers blot out the sky. You simply have to see it to believe it.

While you’re here, try Takato’s very own style of soba served with grilled miso.

Best Blossoms: April 10th to 15th

Location: Ina city, Southern Nagano

Access: Take a bus from Ina station to the Takato station stop. See below for bus schedule (520 yen one way).

Komoro Kaikoen, Komoro city

One of Komoro castle's only remaining gates stands surrounded by a plethora of blooming cherry trees

Kaikoen's San-no-mon gate and stone walls are all that remain of Komoro castle.

Kaikoen is another one of Japan’s top 100 sakura spots. Here lay the ruins of Komoro castle, originally built in the late 1400s. Much has been destroyed, but the gate and stone walls remain intact and are registered nationally as important cultural properties. You may feel as if you’ve stepped into a maze as you wander through the park, most likely an intentional design to confuse invaders.

Afterwards, take a dip in a 1000-meter high onsen.

Best Blossoms: April 14th to 19th

Location: Komoro city, Eastern Nagano

Access: The park is directly next to Komoro station. From Nagano station, take the Shinano Railway line and get off at Komoro station (approx. 60 min). From Tokyo, take the Asama or Hakutaka Shinkansen to Karuizawa station (approx. 60 min), then change to the Shinano Railway line for Nagano. Get off at Komoro Station (approx. 25 min).

Garyu Koen, Suzaka city

A row of cherry trees are lit up by night and reflect gently in the pond below

Garyu's cherry trees are especially beautiful at night.

This park has also been selected as part of Japan’s top 100, and it’s easy to see why. There are 14 different types of cherry trees here from Edo Kohigan to Shidare-zakura (weeping cherry), and they reflect beautifully in the pond below. The cherry blossoms are lit up at night while colorful food stalls prepare festival favorites like takoyaki, fried chicken and yaki soba.

Before heading to the park for a night stroll, visit Suzaka’s street of storehouses. They are remnants of Suzaka’s history as a prosperous silk town, and you can see traditional town architecture and earthern-walled buildings. If you like sake, Suzaka’s Endo Brewery is here as well. You can also stop by Guest house Kura for a coffee or snack.

Best Blossoms: April 10th to 14th

Location: Suzaka city, Northern Nagano

Access: From Nagano station, take the Nagano Dentetsu line to Suzaka station. From there, it’s a 20 minute walk, 5 minute taxi or 10 minute bus ride. If taking the bus, get off at Garyukoen or Garyukoen Iriguchi stop (200 yen).

Ueda Castle Ruins, Ueda city

Cherry trees gently hang over the former moat of Ueda castle.

Ueda Castle's history is being rediscovered in NHK's newest drama, "Sanada Maru."

Ueda castle has been receiving a lot of attention recently as the home of the Sanada clan, whose member Sanada Yukimura is the star of this year’s NHK period drama, Sanada Maru. Visitors can check out the “Doramakan” which contains props, clothing and dioramas related to his life and story. As you walk through Ueda Castle’s ruins, you can enjoy beautiful cherry trees that have been here since the beginning of the Showa period, about 100 years ago.

There is a well-preserved historical street nearby with artisan bakeries, restaurants and shops. Visitors may be interested in spending the night in Bessho Onsen, a short train ride from Ueda city.

Best Blossoms: April 5th to 9th

Location: Ueda city, Eastern Nagano

Access: Take the Ueda Machinaka bus from Ueda station to Koen Kita. The bus runs every half hour from 9:00 to 17:00 (100 yen one way).

Mastumoto Castle, Mastumoto city

Matsumoto Castle and Cherry Blossoms during a blue, cloudless day

National treasure Matsumoto Castle is another popular viewing spot.

While Matsumoto Castle’s cherry blossoms haven’t been awarded a coveted spot in Japan’s top 100 category, it is an important symbol of Nagano and has amazing views of the Northern Alps. Let’s face it, if you’re visiting Nagano for the first time you’re probably going to go to Matsumoto castle, so why not kill three birds with one stone?

Don’t forget to visit Nakamachi-dori and Nawate-dori streets while you’re in the area.

Best Blossoms: April 7th to 12th

Location: Matsumoto city, Central Nagano

Access: A 15-minute walk from Matsumoto station.

Kozen-ji, Komagane city

A blossoming cherry tree extends upwards above distant white mountains.

Enjoy cherry blossoms and the Central Alps at Kozen-ji. (courtesy of the Komagane Tourism Association)

This large temple in Komagane city is renowned throughout Southern Nagano for its many beautiful structures and its peaceful, forested landscape. The road towards the temple is lined with large Japanese cedar trees, and over 70 weeping cherry trees dot the premises.

In addition to evening light-ups, Kozen-ji will also be celebrating its Gokaicho this year. Once every seven years, a special pillar is prepared in front of the main temple and tied to the image of buddha enshrined inside. People can connect with Buddha by touching the pillar. Some sections normally closed off to the public will be open for inspection as well.

Nearby is popular Senjojiki Cirque, accessible by the Komagatake Ropeway.

Best Blossoms: April 10th to 15th

Location: Komagane city, Southern Nagano

Access: From Nagano station, take the Wide View Shinano train to Shiojiri station, then change to the JR Chuo line and get off at Tatsuno station. Finally, change to the Iida line and get off at Komagane station (approx. 135 min).
Take the Komagatake Ropeway Bus and get off at Kiriishi Koen Shita stop, then walk 5 minutes. Buses run to the temple once every hour from 8:00 to 15:00, and once every hour back from 9:12 to 16:12. More buses are added after April 18th.

You may wish to use this website to help plan your train ride!

Koboyama Koen, Matsumoto City

A hill pokes out above 4000 blossoming cherry trees.

Thousands of cherry trees surround the crest of Koboyama.

This lesser known tourist spot has gained popularity recently as a setting in the manga Orenji. This large hill overlooks the city and is surrounded by a wall of 4000 cherry trees. In full bloom the view from the top is spectacular, and there are also walking paths through the trees as well. During peak viewing season the area has nightly light ups.

Best Blossoms: April 7th to 12th

Location: Matsumoto city, Central Nagano

Access: From Matsumoto Bus Terminal, take the Namiyanagi line bus to Koboyama Iriguchi. From Matsumoto station, take the JR Chuo line to Minami Matsumoto station, then walk for 30 minutes.

Additional Information

Takato Castle Bus Schedule

Weekday Schedule
To Ina Station To Takato
Takato Station Ina Station Ina Station Takato Station
6:53 7:16 7:18 7:39
7:30 7:58 7:49 8:10
8:15 8:43 9:00 9:23
9:25 9:51 10:41 11:04
10:38 11:03 11:37 12:00
11:35 12:02 12:02 12:35
12:30 12:55 12:31 12:56
13:30 13:55 13:28 13:51
14:30 14:55 14:28 14:53
15:07 15:34 15:42 16:15
15:55 16:20 16:33 16:56
16:47 17:12 18:05 18:28
17:58 18:21 18:43 19:06
18:45 19:08 19:36 19:59
Weekend Schedule
To Ina Station To Takato
Takato Station Ina Station Ina Station Takato Station
7:40 8:01 7:49 8:10
9:25 9:49 9:00 9:23
10:38 11:01 10:41 11:04
11:35 12:02 12:02 12:35
13:30 13:53 13:15 13:39
15:30 15:57 15:57 16:30
17:13 17:36 18:05 18:28
18:45 19:08 18:43 19:06

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Endo Brewery

Open daily from 8:30 to 18:00. There is a storefront with free sake tasting available. For location, click here. Can be reached via the Yonaka, Seni or Myotoku Danchi line buses. Get off at the Chuo Kominkan stop.

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Guest House Kura

Cafe is open from 12:00 to 16:00 on business days (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays). For location, click here. For more information, see their English website.

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Bessho Onsen

An Onsen town on the Shionada plain outside of Ueda city. There are many beautifully-crafted temples and ryokan here, earning it the nickname “the Kamakura of Nagano.” It can be reached from Ueda station via the Ueda Dentetsu Bessho line. The town proper is a 5-minute walk away. For more information, see here.

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Tips for Drivers

Rental cars come with car navigation systems and you can search for your destination by phone number. Use these numbers below to help navigate yourself to each sakura spot.

Takato Castle Park: 0265-94-2551 will take you to the Takato town hall, along the way you will see signs for the park.

Komoro Kaikoen: 0267-22-1234 will take you to the Komoro Tourism Association near the park. Ask there about parking spots.

Garyu Koen: 026-245-0407 takes you to a parking lot adjacent to the park. During the Cherry Blossom festival, parking is 500 yen.

Ueda Castle Ruins: 0268-23-5408 will take you to the Ueda city Tourism Center across from the park. You can ask about parking there.

Matsumoto Castle: 0263-32-2902 takes you directly to the castle. Parking is available near Matsumoto station.

Kozen-ji: 0265-83-2736 takes you directly to the temple. Parking is available there.

Koboyama: Most car navigation systems also accept Map Codes. Use this one to reach the parking lot by the walking trail: 75 763 070*55.

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11 Responses to “Nagano’s Top Cherry Blossom Spots

  1. Hello, thanks for this useful information. I am planning to rent a car in Toyama April 9th 2016 for a week or more, and wonder if it’s easy to drive around the Japan Alps to find the sights recommended. My husband is a very skilled driver but I am afraid of getting lost as the navigator. Also whether we need to book minshukus/cheaper hotels/motels in advance in areas around Kozen-ji and Matsumoto castle, Tsumago or whether we can wing it. Thank you. Any tips or suggestions for the itinerary would be greatly appreciated. We have booked two nights in Takayama arriving April 11th but can cancel if necessary. We are hoping to catch peak Sakura blooming.

  2. Hi Jen,

    I have updated this post with links to Google Maps for each location and some special tips for car navigation here. I’ve also made a sample route below. As for accommodations, I would recommend booking them in advance as cherry blossom season can get very busy.

    From Takayama, I would take route 158 and head straight towards Matsumoto. The blossoms should be around their peak when you arrive, and you can visit Matsumoto castle and/or Koboyama there. I would stay in Matsumoto for the night and then head down towards Ina city for Kozen-ji and Takato Castle park the next day. The day after that, you can take the Chuo Jidosha Interchange (a toll road) and get off at Nakatsugawa. From there you can visit Magome-juku and Tsumago-juku (read more about them here).

    I hope that helps answer your question. Stay tuned for another blog about other flower festivals later this week!

    -Blair

  3. Thanks so much! I also discovered the central Nippon expressway pass and I am guessing it’s probably cheaper than using ETC card. http://global.c-nexco.co.jp/en/cep/. ETC card : 324yen for 1 rental CEP : 11,000yen for 8days. 12,000yen for 9days.
    Your post has been godsend. I’ve also decided to head down to Lake Kawaguchiko if the weather is clear to view Mt Fuji. I may now rent a car for 10 days! Fortunately the car rental will let me extend after a week on a daily basis at the same rate. I’ve got two nights confirmed for Takayama on April 11 and 12th and will head to Matsumoto after that. And two nights in Tsumago on April 16 and 17th. Thanks again for taking the trouble to reply and to update.

  4. Thank you. Much obliged. Looking forward to this road trip. I wrote a longer message but I think it did not get through. But I wanted you to know this blog is great.

  5. Jen,

    I apologize for not seeing your other comment sooner! It’s through now. I’m glad I could be of service and hope you enjoy your time in Japan!

    -Blair

  6. Hi Blair,

    thank you for this site.
    Me and my boyfriend are going to pass Nagano during our round-trip and we will arrive from Hiroshima by Train on 09. April and stay one nigth and will leave on 10th evening to Nikko. I couldn’t decide where to look for a hotel/ryokan exactly to have the best location for seeing as many sakura as possible and of course the monkeys. Do you have a tipp? We would prefer to do everything by train or bus than renting a car, do you think we can make it, or will there be difficulties to arrive the main spots?
    Thanks in advance for your tipps.

    Greetings from Germany
    Eva

  7. addition: of course we know we can not see ALL of the places but at least some that will be already blooming 😉

  8. Hi Eva,

    I’m glad you enjoy the site!

    To see the most Sakura while you’re here, I would recommend staying in Nagano city or possibly Suzaka (Guest House Kura is a good option there). As you make your way up from Hiroshima you can stop in Matsumoto to see the castle and its cherry blossoms, and even Koboyama’s wall of sakura if you feel up to it. Then, head up towards Nagano and take the Nagano Dentetsu train to Suzaka to see the Garyu Koen cherry blossom light up in the evening. On the 10th you can visit the Snow Monkeys (take the Nagano Dentetsu train to Yudanaka station, then take the Kanbayashi or Shigakogen line bus to the Snow Monkey Park stop). On your way back, you could visit Obuse for museums and cafes, or stop at the Ueda Shinkansen station for some more cherry blossoms in Ueda Castle Ruins park.

    You may also be interested in seeing some other flower festivals while you’re here, the Apricot village in Chikuma city (Anzu no Sato) will be in bloom when you arrive.

    If you have any other questions let me know!

    -Blair

  9. Hi Blair,

    sorry, I only saw now that you responded. I was expecting an email notice 😉
    I want to thank you for your tipps.
    We really booked Guest House Kura, but they told me, that Garyu will not be lit up in these days. They expect the blooming a little later.
    But i am shure we will have a great time :)

    Eva

  10. hi! Planning to go here via Willer Bus from Shinjuku to Ina City. How far is Ina City to Takato Castle Park? Thanks

  11. Hi there,

    Takato Castle Park is approximately 30 minutes by bus away from Ina City Station. The bus runs approximately once an hour on weekdays, and once every other hour on weekends. While they’re only in Japanese, you can check the weekday and weekend bus schedules from last year here: weekday schedule, weekend schedule. (Ina City Station is 伊那市駅 and Takato Station is 高遠駅.)

    I hope that answers your question!

    -Blair

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