Woman’s Day (Australia)




Why March? Be dazzled by cherry blossoms during early sakura season. A cherry tree in bloom is a delightful sight, sure. But two thousand cherry trees blossoming in the clear spring air – now, that’s a mind-boggling spectacle. No wonder the Japanese celebrate sakura season with hanami (flower-viewing) outings, thronging parks to picnic beneath pink canopies.

The warmer south-western island of Kyushu blushes before the better-known spots on Honshu, with its Somei Yoshino and Yamazakura trees blooming from mid-march in parks around Fukuoka and magnificen­t Kumamoto castles, and in Yoshino Park in Kagoshima, set against the dramatic backdrop of aptly named Mt Sakurajima. Kyushu makes an ideal destinatio­n for a spring break, combining hanami with visits to the moving memorials of Nagasaki, hikes on volcanic slopes, soaks in Oita’s hot springs and steaming bowls of Tonkotsu ramen.

TRIP PLAN From Fukuoka, linked by Shinkansen to Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima, visit Nagasaki, Kumamoto and Kagoshima, making time for diversions to volcanoes – perhaps mighty Aso-san, the largest active volcano in Japan – hikes in Unzen- Amakusa National Park, a soak in an onsen and offbeat sights such as the industrial ghost island of Hashima.

NEED TO KNOW JR Kyushu rail passes, valid for three, five or seven days, offer good value but aren’t valid for private railways serving some destinatio­ns on the island. OTHER MONTHS Dec-feb – cold, Apr-may – spring, blossoms, busy, Jun-aug – hot, rainy, Sep-nov – cooling off, autumn colours.

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Take a daytime soak in one of the country’s relaxing hot springs.
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