Sakura & Setouchi — Seven hidden spots for Japan’s cherry blossom season

Setouchi Region

It’s that time of the year again! In just a few short weeks, Japan’s cherry blossoms will emerge from their winter slumber, blanketing the country in a fleeting, ethereal beauty.

Their captivating allure in 2024 is expected to draw unprecedented crowds, continuing the trend set last year when Japan welcomed a surge of overseas visitors for the first full cherry blossom season since the pandemic. With international arrivals consistently breaking records all of 2023, the challenge of over-tourism is becoming increasingly evident.

Even during non-peak periods, Japan already grapples with the influx of visitors. In the Setouchi region, renowned destinations like Miyajima are often overwhelmed, stretching the existing tourism infrastructure to its limits. The cherry blossom season only heightens this dilemma, with its unique blend of natural beauty and cultural festivities drawing even larger crowds.

When it comes to places to see the cherry blossoms, Setouchi region is truly blessed with variety. Though there are indeed a number of mainstream spots like Himeji Castle and the area near the Atomic Bomb Dome, Setouchi has a lot of well kept secrets too.

So, in the spirit of combating over-tourism, here are seven spots to consider for cherry blossom viewing this year for each of the prefectures in the Setouchi region.

① Hyogo Prefecture: Sasayama Castle

Sasayama Castle, located in Sasayama City, Hyogo Prefecture, is a historically significant site built under the orders of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Unlike the more grandiose Osaka and Himeji Castles, Sasayama Castle is known for its rustic charm and tranquil atmosphere. Reconstructed in 2004, it retains magnificent stone walls and features fine Edo-period paintings, offering a glimpse into Japan’s feudal past.

While it’s normally off the beaten path, Sasayama Castle transforms into a spectacular viewing spot during cherry blossom season. The castle grounds, surrounded by about 1,000 cherry trees along the moat, offer a stunning display of blooming cherry blossom trees. This creates an enchanting atmosphere, combining historical architecture with natural beauty, making it a must-visit destination for cherry blossom enthusiasts​ who are looking for something new.

Reaching Sasayama Castle is relatively straightforward. Visitors can take a 17-minute bus ride from Sasayamaguchi Station on Fukuchiyama Line to the Nikai bus stop. From there, it’s a brief five-minute walk to the castle. This access route makes Sasayama Castle an ideal destination for those looking to experience the serenity and beauty of rural Japan, away from the hustle of larger cities like Kobe and Osaka.

Note that Sasayama Castle combines well with a trip to Kinosaki Onsen.

/Public Release.