Cherry blossom ('sakura' in Japanese) season is one of the most beautiful seasons in Japan. After a cold winter the weather finally starts to warm up, layers come off, people spend more time outside, and we are greeted with the most beautiful light pink blooms. Puffy cloud-like trees dot the country heralding the changing of the seasons.
During cherry blossom season it's common to see friends, families and work colleagues enjoying 'hanami,' which translates to cherry blossom viewing. You can find masses of people sitting outside on their picnic blankets with plenty of food and drinks enjoying the cherry blossoms in parks all around Japan.
Let's take a look at the best places to hanami like a local in Osaka city during the fabulous cherry blossom season in Osaka!
Osaka Castle Park
Osaka Castle Park has likely come up several times while researching things to see and do in Osaka, and for good reason. This park has a total area of around 260 acres, and is a popular place for people to exercise, relax, and of course visit the famous Osaka Castle.
Entrance to the main area of the park is free, although access to the castle itself requires a ticket, as do a couple of other special areas in the vicinity. Even without paying any admission fees, there is still plenty for you to enjoy for free at this park, so if you're travelling on a budget, you need not worry. As you wander the park you can find some information about the history of the castle, however the display inside the castle does go into more detail.
Osaka Castle Park is extremely popular at the beginning of spring when the plum ('ume' in Japanese) blossoms are blooming (usually around the end of February), so if you're a little too early to enjoy the cherry blossoms, you may be able to catch those at the Plum Grove at Osaka Castle Park instead. I absolutely love plum blossoms and visit the park every year to catch them in bloom.
Anyway, back to the cherry blossoms! The cherry blossom trees are scattered around the castle park, so no matter where in the park you are you're bound to be able to spot a tree or two, or fifty! Some areas are out of bounds for picnics (even more so during the pandemic), so be sure to check for signs.
One amazing part of the park that is often forgotten about is Nishinomaru Garden. There is a small entrance fee (200 yen for adults at the time of writing), but the view of the Osaka Castle in the background with cherry blossoms in the foreground is simply stunning from this angle. They tend to be a bit more strict with rules in this area, so again, check the signs before entering. Having a picnic in this area and playing any kind of sport has been banned for the past couple of years.
Although there are some convenience stores inside Osaka Castle Park, its best to bring your own food and drinks to the castle park during hanami season, especially if visiting later in the day. There are also some cafes in the park, but as you can expect, they get really busy around cherry blossom season, and there's often a long wait for food. Before the pandemic it was common to see some yatai (street food stalls) in the park, but in 2022 the number was drastically reduced.
Once you see the photos below, you can probably see why this place is in my top 3 list for the best places to see cherry blossoms in Osaka! Aren't the cherry blossoms and castle a great combination? Osaka Castle is a popular place for locals and tourists during the famous cherry blossom season.
Click the images to expand.
Osaka Castle Park & Nishinomaru Garden
If you're interested, here is a reel I made and posted on Instagram of cherry blossoms at Osaka Castle Park in spring of 2022. Click to watch.
Suggested access to Osaka Castle Park: Temmabashi station (Keihan line, Tanimachi line), Osaka Business Park station (Nagahori Tsurumi Ryokuchi line), Morinomiya station (Chuo line, JR Loop line, Nagahori Tsurumi Ryokuchi line), Tanimachiyonchome station (Chuo line, Tanimachi line).
Name in Japanese: 大阪城公園
Minamitenma Park/Sakuranomiya Park
I've lumped these two together because I recommend walking from Sakuranomiya to Temma to enjoy the cherry blossoms along the river. There's a clear path where you can walk or ride your bike, and some grassy areas along the way where you can lay your picnic blanket. The walk from one end to the other takes around 30 minutes, and is a mostly flat easy walk. There may be quite a crowd of people when you start this walk, but the crowd usually thins out pretty quickly.
I suggest picking up food before you start walking, as there isn't much in terms of cafes or convenience stores along the way, so come prepared. Before COVID it was common to see a few street food stalls set up near Sakuranomiya station, and dozens of stalls set up near Minamitenma Park serving up delicious festival food - takoyaki, grilled squid, taiyaki (pictured below), foot long french fries, etc. Sadly due to the pandemic these stalls were drastically reduced in number when I visited last time in spring of 2022. Hopefully they'll make a comeback soon!
If a picnic isn't your thing, why don't you consider enjoying the cherry blossoms from a boat on the river. Most of the boats depart from the dock just across the river from Minamitenma Park.
If this whole thing sounds too confusing, just enter the start and end points below into Google Maps and follow the river.
I made a reel of this area showcasing the sakura in spring of 2022. Enjoy!
Suggested access to Minamitenma Park: Temmabashi station (Keihan line, Tanimachi line)
Name in Japanese: 南天満公園
Suggested access to Sakuranomiya: Sakuranomiya station (JR line)
Name in Japanese: 桜ノ宮
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Osaka Mint Bureau
Alright, listen up! The Osaka Mint Bureau (yes, the place where they make money) is only open for one week each year for the general public to enjoy the cherry blossoms. You are NOT able to eat or drink or sit down in this area - it is purely for walking through. The trees on the grounds here are a variety that bloom a little later than the more typical sakura that you usually see, and are a totally different shape - much larger with many more petals. They're stunning!
As I mentioned above, the area near the mint used to be packed with street food stalls, and it was a popular place for people grab some food or drinks before or after viewing the cherry blossoms at the Mint Bureau. I'm not sure what the future will hold, but I hope the food stalls (and the atmosphere!) come back soon!
The cherry blossom event at the Osaka Mint Bureau was cancelled in 2020 and 2021, but reopened in 2022 with limited capacity, with tickets available through an online reservation system. There is no entrance fee - the online system was simply for reserving a day and time to enter. Entries were capped to avoid crowding and allow for social distancing.
In 2022 the Osaka Mint was open for cherry blossom viewing from April 13 - April 19th. Be sure to keep an eye out on the official Osaka Mint Bureau homepage for open days/hours for next spring. As with any nature related fun, this event is completely weather dependent, so be sure to check the below websites for updates and cherry blossom blooming forecasts.
Address in English: 1 Chome-1-79 Tenma, Kita Ward, Osaka, 530-0043
Name in Japanese: 造幣局 桜の通り抜け (The Mint Bureau Cherry Blossom Passage)
Address in Japanese: 〒530-0043 大阪府大阪市北区天満１丁目１−79
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In addition to the three places I mentioned in this post, Osaka also has a number of small neighborhood parks where you can enjoy cherry blossoms. I've visited a number of different places to view cherry blossoms in Osaka over the years, but these are definitely my top three picks. If you have young kids I definitely recommend the Temma/Sakuranomiya area, as there's tons of space for them to run around, whereas the enjoying the cherry blossoms at the Osaka Mint Bureau is much smaller and more controlled.
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