Hanami, or “flower viewing,” is a coveted Japanese pastime that occurs during the spring months across the country. As soon as the winter makes way for the cherry blossoms, or “sakura,” to bloom, groups of people begin gathering beneath these beautiful blossoms to appreciate their beauty and enjoy each other’s company. Thanks to the elongated geography of Japan, the sakura and hanami season lasts for quite some time, and each region has their own window of time to take advantage of the event.
You can see Kobe’s most updated information here, sorry it is only available in Japanese.
Basically Hanami is a picnic, though with the flowers, and often lights and music, it is more like a picnic at a festival. If you can get yourself a spot, some gear and some friends with which to enjoy it all with, you are golden. Here is a list of things to bring and some basic rules, followed by the top five hanami spots near Kobe!
Picnic spots are first-come- first-serve
Finding a spot can be challenging, especially in the most popular areas, or seemingly anywhere at “peak blossom.” Arriving early, literally with the birds at 5am, will help ensure you get something. The ONLY surefire way to get a spot is arrive early, spread your picnic sheet(s) and sit on them until your guests arrive. Leaving a sheet and a note is tempting, but risky.
Make sure picnics are OK
Be sure you are allowed to picnic there before you setup, the presence of cherry trees and blossoms does not mean you are allowed to use the area! Check first.
Pack out your garbage
In big popular areas you may find garbage areas setup for you, but most do not and despite what you may see drunken college students do, DO NOT leave your garbage behind; especially not your picnic sheet and beer cans!
Don’t mess with the trees!
I know the flowers are nice but DON’T break off a branch to take home, it is not appreciated.
Take your shoes off
A picnic sheet on the ground here is considered an inside area, and shoes are not to be worn, so wear shoes that are easy to take off and on!
Don’t be “that guy” or girl!
You know what I mean here! Just be cool, you can be cool right?
For the Kansai region, the best time to view the cherry blossoms has historically been between late March and early April. Although many tourists might flock to the larger cities like Kyoto and Osaka, Kobe also has some incredible hanami locations you shouldn’t miss. With a plethora and parks and shrines to choose from, it was difficult to narrow down, but these top 5 hanami sites near Kobe should at least get you started this sakura season!
Mount Egeyama stands 85 meters above sea level, and the small park at the top provides a stunning view of the Kobe skyline. This park features a winding 1 kilometer walking or jogging path that’s lined with over 1400 sakura trees. During other seasons, this park is often frequented by locals who wish to get some light exercise in the gorgeous natural environment. The atmosphere of the park certainly slows down when the cherry blossoms start blooming however, as visitors walk freely under the budding canopy of flowers, or make use of the grass spaces and park benches and relax.
3 Chome−21 Egeyamachō, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture 652-0043 (google map)
On the southwestern side of the Rokko mountain range, Mount Hachibuse provides a spectacular hanami spot. After a short, 3-minute ride up the ropeway from Sumaura Park station, you will arrive at Mount Hachibuse and Sumaura park. The park continues upward on the mountain, where another quick ride will place you at a small amusement park for children. The best sakura viewing with the most serenity will likely be at the first stop. Here you can relax with over 3200 cherry blossom trees against a breathtaking view of the sea below.
Nishi Suma, Suma Ward, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture 654-0068 (google map)
For a truly tranquil hanami experience complete with traditional Japanese charm, you must pay Okusuma park a visit. Not only is this park interspersed with a beautiful array of blooming sakura trees, but it also features a natural forest, multiple ponds, rice terraces, and large expanses of grassy fields.
Wakabayashi, Tainohata, Suma Ward, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture 654-0133 (google map)
Honoring the spirits local war heroes, Gokoku shrines are located in most cities across Japan and they provide serene sites for reflection and relaxation among nature. The park surrounding Kobe’s Gokoku Shrine is lined with sakura trees that bring a lovely colorful glow to the historic monument during cherry blossom season. This location has become a favorite for hanami in Kobe thanks to the nighttime tree illuminations, which invite the social gatherings to persist well into the evening.
4 Chome 5-1 Shinohara Kitamachi, Nada Ward, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture 657-0068 (google map)
Shintaro Sasabe, also known as “the Sakura Doctor,” dedicated his life to preserving the Japanese cherry blossom, and Okamoto Minami Park was built on the land that was once his home. In addition to making incredible sakura-themed artwork, Sasabe-san was an avid collector of cherry blossom trees. The park, now owned and run by the city government of Kobe, showcases these preserved trees of different varieties and offers information regarding each one.
6 Chome 6-8 Okamoto, Higashi Nada Ward, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture 658-0072 (google map)