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Cherry Blossoms & Hina Matsuri Festival

The Season of Cherry Blossoms

Spring is the sweet season in Kyushu, so be sure to catch its myriad sweet spots at this special time of year. For many families, the celebration begins on March 3, a day known as Hina Matsuri in Japan, or Girls’ Day. Each region has its own local variation on this traditional festival, which honors and prays for the health of young girls. Fukuoka prefecture is one of the liveliest places to see this joyful occasion unfold. Meanwhile, excitement builds across Japan as the meteorological “cherry blossom front” stretches northward up the archipelago. It’s always good news for Kyushu, as the sakura wave begins in the south. From classic cultivated Somei Yoshino to wild mountain Yamazakura to dramatically weeping Shidarezakura, several hundred thousand cherry trees progressively erupt in delicate, transient blossoms that herald the arrival of spring.
Cherry Blossoms | Hina Matsuri Festival


One of the most authentically refined places to appreciate cherry blossoms is Sengan-en, an Edo-period Japanese garden in Kagoshima that preserves the traditional custom of Kyokusui-no-en (Winding Stream Party) on the first Sunday of April. At this elegant event, people dressed in traditional clothing read poetry and drink sake along the stream that runs through the Kyokusui garden. It’s a historically more cultured version of hanami, the popular spring pastime of picnicking under the sakura, which also dates back to the Heian period. Most of the cherry trees at Sengan-en are Kanhizakura, an early-blooming species with deep pink bell-shaped blossoms native to Okinawa. By April, you may also see the classic pale pink sakura contrasted against the dark tree bark of Somei Yoshino. All this with a dramatic backdrop of Sakurajima in the middle of Kagoshima Bay.


Sakurajima literally means “cherry blossom island”, and its distinctive silhouette is a timeless icon of Kagoshima. Every spring, hundreds of cherry trees come into full bloom inside Sakurajima Dinosaur Park, situated on a hill about a 15-minute walk from the ferry terminal where you arrive from downtown Kagoshima. Sakurajima is also Japan’s most active volcano, so there’s a certain thrill to smelling fresh ash as you approach its smoking craters, which can be safely observed among the three main peaks from various points around the island. Along the western shore, the Nagisa Lava Trail offers a botanical walking tour through a lava zone created by Sakurajima’s giant eruption of 1914. End your stroll with a scenic soak in the long foot baths with more beautiful views across the bay.
©Kagoshima city
©Sakurajima Geosaruku
©Sakurajima Museum

Ibusuki Onsen

Further south along the peninsula in Ibusuki, the observation deck atop Mt. Uomidake is another great place to view a blanket of sakura in full bloom, as long as you catch its 600 cherry trees at just the right time. But Ibusuki is best known for its volcanic sunamushi sand baths, which you can experience all year round at any one of the many resorts in the nearby Ibusuki Onsen area. Once you change into a cotton yukata, attendants will help bury you up to your neck as you lie under the dark, warm sand. It’s a particularly relaxing way to wind down after a day of cherry blossom-viewing, as you watch dusk fall over the bay to the east. When you’re ready for your next move, you can shower off and soak in the hot spring baths next door. Don’t forget to snack on a naturally steamed onsen egg on your way out, then enjoy a leisurely dinner and a good night’s sleep.

Yufuin Onsen

If you travel up to the northeast of Kyushu, Yufuin Onsen is a charming resort town at the foot of Mt. Yuku, which also offers a large selection of geothermal hot springs. Many onsen and ryokan are within easy walking distance from Yufuin train station, along a main street full of shops, cafes, and art galleries as you walk toward the misty Kinrin Lake. The Oita River also runs through this area, so be sure to follow the nature trail along the river bank, with bright yellow rapeseed flowers on one side and soft pink cherry blossoms on the other, as the lush green peaks of Mt. Yufu rise behind them against a cloudless blue sky—best viewed in spring!


9:00 - 12:00
Cherry blossom viewing at Sengan-en in Kagoshima
12:00 - 15:00
Visiting Sakurajima
15:00 - 16:00
Observation deck atop Mt. Uomidake in Ibusuki
16:00 - evening
Ibusuki Onsen sand bath, hot spring, overnight
9:00 - 12:00
Travel to Yufuin Onsen
12:00 - 14:00
Cherry blossom viewing along the Oita river bank
14:00 - 17:00
Visiting the town’s main street
17:00 - evening
Relaxing in an onsen hotel

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