Home JapanTravel 13 must-see spots in central Japan in spring (including cherry blossom viewing spots)

13 must-see spots in central Japan in spring (including cherry blossom viewing spots)


It’s no secret that we adore Japan! To this day, it remains our most visited country. In fact, when the pandemic first rears its ugly head in 2020, we plan to finish wading through all the prefectures. This was one of the big trips we cancelled. But you know what, it’s a new year! At the beginning of 2021, our hopes were dashed, but this time, we’re choosing to be optimistic. So early on now, we claim it! This year, we will return to Japan as soon as it reopens to tourists.

But where to go when it happens? We’ve been to almost every area but one that lives rent-free in our minds. It is always the place we dream of and the first place that jumps out at us when mentioning the land of the rising sun – the Chubu region.

Also known as central Japan, it is often considered the heart of the country due to its location and strong adherence to tradition. We’ve been here five times and we don’t mind coming back time and time again because (1) it’s a huge area that includes amazing highlands, vintage towns and ruins; (2) there’s just so much to see and do; and (3) you can find many amazing hidden attractions in central Japan.

Hopefully, when Japan opens its doors again, it will be in time for spring, because it’s the most delightful season! Temperatures are comfortable, food is plentiful, flowers are in bloom, and oh, cherry blossoms!

1. Cherry blossom viewing spots in Nagoya
Nagoya is the largest city in central Japan, so let’s start from there. In the center of the city, Nagoya Castle is a great place to see, especially the Honmaru Goten. The original palace and castle were completely destroyed in 1945, but in 2018, its full restoration was finally completed.

But in spring, you’ll be more energetic wandering around as the castle is surrounded by over 1,000 cherry trees that turn the whole place pink!

Cherry blossoms in Nagoya Castle in spring
Another amazing attraction is located along the Yamazaki River, where more than 600 Yoshino cherry trees are planted on both sides of the 2.5-kilometer-long river. Also check out the many parks on the Nagoya map, including Tsuruma Park, Meishiro Park, Arakogawa Park and Higashiyama Fruit Park.

2. Cormorant fishing in Kawaramachi, Gifu City
Kawaramachi is one of the most idyllic neighborhoods in Gifu City. Living on the banks of the Nagara River, its residents have made their living by fishing for most of their history. But visitors can experience it too!

Aromatic fish caught by cormorants and the Kawaramachi warehouse
Kawaramachi is famous for its cormorant fishing. Cormorants are water birds that are skilled at catching fish and holding them intact in their mouths and throats. For centuries, the locals have used them to catch the aromatic fish (mangrove), the city’s main protein. It is usually served at restaurants such as Kawaramachi Izumiya.

Although ayu is usually considered a summer delicacy, it begins to appear in late spring. So, if you arrive after late May, you may be in for a treat!

Kawaramachi also boasts several old-time warehouses that have been converted into stores and townhouses.

3. Udatsu Wall Historic District, Mino City
Speaking of old-world houses, another place where you can travel back in time is the Udatsu Wall Historic District in Mino City, Gifu Prefecture. “Udatsu” means that firewalls are placed at both ends of the roof of a building to prevent fire. It is a common feature of the structures in the area, hence the name.

Udatsu Wall District and paper lanterns
Mino City is also known for its production of washi (traditional Japanese paper). As a craft, washi is deeply rooted in Japanese culture, which is why it is listed as an intangible cultural asset by UNESCO. It’s said that Mino City embraces washi wholeheartedly, and it showcases the art of washi throughout the city! This made us very excited!

4. Ancient City of Takayama
From Mino Ota, we planned to take a limited express Hida to Takayama! The old town is very easy to reach from Takayama train station, about 10 minutes walk.

Express Hida – Takayama
We visited Takayama a few times, mainly stopping on the way to and from Shirakawa-go. But Takayama has its charms too. From the well-preserved wooden merchant houses that transported us to the Edo period, to the morning market where we sampled the local cuisine. And in its stores, we got to try Hida beef and Takayama ramen, both of which were delicious! We can’t wait to come back!

5. Spring in Shirakawa-go
Shirakawa-go in spring
Situated in the highlands of Gifu Prefecture, Shirakawago in Ono Ward attracts visitors all year round, but is especially special in spring. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shirakawago is one of Japan’s cultural treasures. It is known for its iconic century-old haphazard thatched-roof farmhouses, many of which have been converted into museums, ryokans or hotels.

Yes, we’ve been here many times before, but I definitely always look forward to returning to it!

6. Iwasehama, Toyama
Back in the past, the coastal town of Iwase City prospered largely due to its Kitamae ship maritime trading industry. Many of its early development buildings have been preserved, creating a historic street that visitors can still enjoy today.

Toyama Iwase Marina Beach
Toyama Iwase Marina Beach Historic Street
Iwase Beach, known as Echonaka Maiko, offers a magnificent view of the Tateyama Mountain Range and attracts many visitors in the summer. But in other seasons, especially spring, there are also many places to see and visit.

The best way to visit Toyama is to take the train that runs through the city and connects many major attractions.

Toyama Train
7. Seasonal seafood in Toyama
“Don’t leave Toyama without tasting seafood,” they say. Among the rich marine resources it offers, white shrimp probably tops the list. Known locally as shiroi ebi, they are said to have a soft sweetness and a rich sea flavor.

Where to try this delicacy? One of the most recommended places is the conveniently located White Shrimp Tei at Toyama Station. It usually serves shiroi ebi along with Toyama koshihikari rice.

Shiroi Ebi or White Shrimp in Toyama, Japan
Can’t get enough of Japanese food? Another place to eat fresh seafood in Toyama is Shinminato Kittokito Ichiba, which serves a variety of seafood. In addition to white shrimp, other must-try delicacies include Red Tsukai crab and firefly squid! All of these are seasonal, but available in the spring!

Benizuwai crab at Shinminato Kittokito Ichiba in Toyama
8. Tonami Tulip Park
We’ve been to many flower parks in Japan – from the lavender fields of Hokkaido to the colorful rows of Kyushu – but we’re still excited to visit Tonami’s own park! Why? One word: tulips! Many of Japan’s prefectures have designated an official flower, and in Toyama it’s the tulip! After all, it is the country’s top producer of this bulbous flower.

Toyama Tonami Tulip Fair
In spring, Tonami is ablaze with color with the Tulip Festival. At this time, you will find over 3 million of these flowers scattered all over the city! Tulips can be found everywhere! Tulip Marche, a flower market near Tulip Park, also attracts visitors.

9. Cherry blossom viewing in Kanazawa
After a day of shrimp and tulips, it’s time to head to Kanazawa City. Kanazawa, the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture, is another city that has done a great job of preserving and/or restoring its historical and cultural assets. We’ve been here a few times before, but we don’t know enough about the city!

Cherry blossom ruins in Kanazawa
But its love of tradition is most evident in the atmospheric Kazue-machi Chaya District, known for its old-fashioned teahouses and restaurants along the banks of the Asano River. At sunset, the sounds of shamisen and taiko drums fill the air during Geisha performances. We were told that our experience would be even more magical if we arrived in the spring as cherry blossom trees adorned the riverbank and hung over the river.

Another spot for cherry blossom viewing is the park around Kanazawa Castle. From April 2021, you can enjoy more than 400 illuminated cherry trees from early to mid-April.

The nearby Kanroku Garden is also a cherry blossom viewing spot. It was originally a garden outside the castle, but later developed independently. This 11 hectare garden has more than 400 different types of cherry trees. Every year, when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, the Kanroku-en lighting event is held. Usually only about seven days from late March to mid-April, this is a spectacular sight that can only be seen in spring.

Other cherry blossom viewing spots include Saigawa River Terrace and Mt.

10. Kanazawa’s Gold Leaf Ice Cream
After enjoying the flowers, come here to stroll around and eat gold! But no, don’t shove the jewels down your throat. I’m talking about gold leaf ice cream!

Ishikawa Gold White Gold Leaf Ice Cream
About 99% of the gold leaf produced in Japan comes from Kanazawa. Unsurprisingly – well, actually, I’m still surprised – gold leaf also appears in its dishes, not only as part of the plate or utensil, but as part of the actual food. There’s no better way to try eating gold leaf than with soft serve ice cream wrapped in luxurious gold leaf. One of the most recommended places to try it is the Kinoichi “Kaneha Kagayaki Soft Ice Cream”.

It’s available year-round, but since spring is starting to warm up, ice cream is a quick fix! Also, when I first went to Kanazawa a few years ago, I thought it was too expensive to try. But my teammates have been chomping at the bit. I’ve been envious for a while now, so I’m adding it to this trip. Haha.

11. Rojo Park, Komatsu City
Since we’ve been talking about cherry blossoms ……

Just outside of Kanazawa is Komatsu City, where you can find another famous cherry blossom viewing destination, Rojo Park.

Rojo Park cherry blossoms in Japan
In spring, the cherry trees here are illuminated by over 600 bonbori (traditional paper lanterns), adding another layer of charm to the cherry blossoms, especially when in full bloom. The park is also dotted with countless wisteria flowers. But it all depends on the time of year, as these flowers are seasonal.

12. Fukui City Suwa River cherry blossoms
No, we’re not done with cherry blossoms! Fukui City also has quite a few cherry blossom spots, most notably along the Asuwa River, which has a 2.2 km long cherry blossom tunnel in spring! In fact, it’s in the top 100 cherry blossom viewing spots in Japan. Check out these photos they sent us!
Asawa River Cherry Blossom Fukui
Fukui is also known for its traditional Wakasa-painted chopsticks! In Wakasa

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