5. Himeji Castle
Of course Himeji Castle is on our list. As one of Japan's first recognized UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Himeji Castle is the most visited castle in Japan, so prepare for crowds, especially during hanami, or cherry blossom viewing. We've even written about it before as one of the best in all of Japan here. The grand splendor of the castle park covered in cherry blossom petals is worth revisiting—though for this list we'll be focusing more on things you might not have already seen!
Walk north for about 10 minutes from Himeji Station. You'll be able to see the castle in the distance the whole time.
4. Kobe City Water Science Museum
Three types of sakura grow here, totaling about 200 trees throughout the grounds. The pathways are lined with the trees, and similar to the cherry blossoms in the Japan Mint in Osaka, the museum is open to the public during the season. The fountain in front of the building is also a treat!
From Sannomiya, take the #7 bus to Kuzudanicho. Follow the signs and you're there!
3. Oji Zoo
One of the larger zoos in the Kansai area, Kobe Oji Zoo is famous for its panda bear, Tan Tan. There are only three zoos in Japan that have giant pandas (the others being Ueno Zoo and Wakayama Adventure World), and since 2000, this zoo has been breeding them through collaborative research between China and Japan.
Take the Hankyu line to Oji Koen Station, and the zoo is immediately outside.
2. Akashi Castle Park
One of the fastest-built castles, Akashi Castle was constructed in almost exactly a year between January 1619 and January 1620 to watch over western Japan on the approach to Osaka. Now the castle rests just outside the train station and is surrounded by a huge park with lots of trees and creeks. In the spring, the whole park is tinged pink with cherry blossoms.
Take the North Exit (or Exit #1) at Akashi Station. The castle is right outside the exit.
1. Shukugawa Park
Even though it's labeled as a park, this is essentially a long stretch along the banks of the Shukugawa River. Several hundred cherry trees bloom along the riverside, the water carrying fallen petals down to the sea. The park itself spans three stations, so you can easily start at one end and walk to the other.
There are three train lines you can take to get here: Take the JR to Sakura Shukugawa, the Hankyu Line to Shukugawa Koen, or the Hanshin Line to Koroen.