There are many great places to view cherry blossoms in Japan. The season usually starts in late March in the more southern regions of the country and rolls steadily north throughout spring, finishing up with lovely pink and white blossoms opening in early May in colder areas.

Every Japanese region’s cherry blossom viewing season has its own character thanks to the unique nature of the area, its climate, its history, and its architecture. While Tokyo and Kyoto and other famous cities are certainly popular for good reason, experiencing cherry blossoms in a different area is a very different and very wonderful experience.

Negoroji temple and splendid sakura.

One area that has its own unique and wonderful cherry blossom viewing experience is Wakayama. The region lies on the southwestern Kii Peninsula on Honshu Island, the main island of Japan. The region is well-known for its excellent hot spring baths (onsen) and other natural wonders. The Japanese people have been living and working with these natural wonders for generations, fishing and farming in the area for generations.

Wakayama’s Marina City hosts tuna filleting shows daily in a fish market, showcasing Wakayama’s well-known and much-loved abundance of fresh seafood, or go fruit-picking at some of the many fruit farms found in the region. You can also try a unique regional seasonal form of Buddhist cuisine, Shojin-ryori, which is closely tied to the cultural history of Wakayama.

All of these contribute to the unique experience of viewing cherry blossoms in Wakayama. The region’s wonderful food makes cherry blossoms viewing parties (hanami) really special, lending them their own literally unique flavor, while its interesting and unique history gives plenty of incredible places to view cherry blossoms.

Here are the best places to see cherry blossoms in Wakayama:

1) Wakayama Castle

Sakura at the Iconic Wakayama Castle. Photo Credit: Visitwakayama.jp.

One of the many castles that can be found in cities throughout Japan, Wakayama Castle was built in 1585 under Toyotomi Hideyoshi. During the Edo period of Japanese history, it was an important base of operations for the powerful Tokugawa Clan. The structure has been destroyed and rebuilt several times, most recently during World War II.

The current structure was built in 1958 and is made of concrete. It has not been modernized in design, however, and resembles the castle as it was during the 17th century during the days Tokugawa rule. Wakayama Castle is a major symbol of Wakayama City and is also a major historical site. Visitors can walk around the castle and its grounds, while its tower offers spectacular views of Wakayama City.

Wakayama Castle.

During cherry blossom season, the cherry trees at Wakayama Castle bloom from late March to Early April. There are about 600 cherry trees on the castle grounds. During the day, sweet flower fragrances fill the air and the castle tower is framed by dense clouds of pink flower. At night, the cherry blossoms are lit up to create a magical, otherworldly scene.

To reach Wakayama Castle, take the Wakayama Bus from JR Wakayama Station and get off at Koen-mae. The castle is a short walk from there.

2) Negoroji Temple

The main structure, Daidenpodo of Negoroji temple during spring. Photo Credit: negoroji.org.

Founded in 1132, this temple complex in Iwade City has a long and interesting history. It was the home of a group of warrior-monks highly skilled in the use of firearms, giving the group a great deal of power in the region. This stirred the local lord, or daimyo, to bring them down, and today only a handful of buildings survive.

Among them is the largest wooden pagoda in Japan, which contains a number of culturally important statues. The temple garden is renowned for its beauty during all seasons.

Nogoroji’s Daimon Gate.

Cherry blossoms at Negroji Temple can be seen in early April every year. You can find cherry trees blooming all across the temple grounds. The atmosphere here is very relaxed, though the spot is quite popular. You can stroll through pink cherry blossoms along the Otani River and enjoy flowers waving in gentle spring breezes. It’s a very different vibe than you get at many popular cherry blossom viewing spots.

You can get to Negroji Temple by bus or by car. By bus, take the Wakayama Bus from JR Kii Station and get off at “Negoro”. Negroji Temple is a 20-minute walk from there. By car, from the Wakayama Kita Interchange on the Hanwa Expressway, take Prefectural Road 139, National Route 24, and Prefectural Road 63 for about 11.7 kilometers.

3) Heisogen Park

Shirahama town’s best hanami spot in Wakayama. Photo Credit: visitwakayama.jp.

Heisogen Park is a spacious park found in Shirahama Town. It provides wide panoramic views and a number of seasonal flowers. Heisogen Park is a popular place for tourists no matter the season.

Heisogen Park features around 2,000 cherry trees. It’s a very popular place for viewing cherry blossoms, perfect for picnics or strolls through the blooming trees. The walking trails are all very even, great for visitors of any age. The park has plenty of open space to spread out a blanket so you can relax and view cherry blossoms.

You can get to Heisogen Park by taking the Meiko Bus to “Heisogen”. By car, you can reach the park from Nanki-Tanabe Interchange on the Hanwa Expressway, take National Route 42 and Prefectural Road 33, 31 towards Heisogen for around 15 kilometers.

4) Kimii-dera Temple

Soft pink cherry blooms and the bright red temple! Photo Credit: Hiroaki Kaneko at Wikimedia Commons.

Kimmi-dera Temple is said to have been founded in 770 by a Chinese monk as a place to pray for the Tokugawa Clan of Wakayama. It features incredible and striking Buddhist architecture. It has bright red façade that stands out in its green surroundings. Kimii-dera Temple has a number of royal ties, having supposedly visited by many emperors throughout time.

There are about 200 steps to the temple’s main hall, making this visit quite hike, but it is well worth the effort. At the top not only do you get to see the main hall, but also an incredible view of Wakanoura Bay. This is a truly inspiring sight, especially at sunset. You can enter the main hall for a small fee and see treasured Buddhist images.

Kimii-dera Temple is known for its early cherry blossom blooms in late March. There are around 500 cherry trees on the temple grounds, adding another vivid color to the temple every spring. It’s an incredible sight. Kimii-dera Temple is a very popular cherry blossom viewing spot, but because of the hike involved, it is less crowded than some others.

To get to Kimii-dera Temple, take a train to JR Kimiidera Station. From there, it is about a 5-minute walk.

Check out the cherry blossom forecast for Wakayama this year.