Cherry Blossoms, or Sakura (桜), are one of the most important symbolic treasures of Japan (日本). It’s one of the first things many people think of when asked about Japan.
The country has been celebrating the sakura flower since ancient times, hence becoming a very important cultural aspect. The so-called Hanami (花見) season (Japanese for flower/cherry blossom-viewing) lasts for about 1-2 weeks in spring.
Cherry Blossoms usually start blooming in late March/early April for Southern and central Japan and in early May for Northern Hokkaido (北海道).
Going out and visiting parks and gardens during this time is enjoyed by the majority of Japanese people.
If possible, I certainly recommend coming to Japan during Cherry Blossom season. You have to be careful with booking though as flights and accommodation might be scarce or more expensive if you wait too long.
Japan puts high emphasis on this tradition and therefore eagerly preserves and maintains a big number of flower viewing spots. In nearly every region of the country you can enjoy wonderful Cherry Blossom views.
There are 3 main different varieties of Cherry Blossoms which you can differentiate by color: White, Pink and Yellow. You’ll probably encounter the pink variety the most but all of them are equally beautiful.
Recommended Cherry Blossom locations
Below I’ll give you some example locations for great views as well as the current forecast for 2019:
In Tokyo, all the great gardens and parks offer wonderful Cherry Blossom views. My personal highlights are as follows:
Ueno Park (上野公園):
Tokyo’s big northern park in Ueno has an amazing number of cherry trees that stretch throughout the whole area. I was there in March 2018 and it’s the real deal. Very crowded though (as are most of the popular spots, more to that further below).
This central garden right next to Shinjuku Station (新宿駅) is segmented into a French, an English and a Japanese landscape garden. The Japanese one of course houses a good number of cherry blossom trees around a beautiful pond.
The garden has a small entrance fee but that shouldn’t stop you from visiting!
Yoyogi Park (代々木公園):
One of Harajuku’s (原宿) attractions, Yoyogi Park is a free public park that is located right besides famous Meiji Shrine (明治神宮). As the park is super spacious, you can find many Sakura trees scattered around.
Grab yourself some food from nearby stores (I recommend the small Takoyaki (たこ焼き) place opposite of Harajuku Station’s (原宿駅) main exit!) and have a nice picnic.
Kyoto has countless beautiful spots to choose from. Let me give you my top 3:
Maruyama Park (円山公園):
This park is Kyoto’s most popular and visited Cherry Blossom location, and for good reason. There is a huge weeping cherry tree right in the middle of the park that can be seen from far away. Other than that you can find the usual cherry trees around the area.
Combined with the fact that there are many temple and shrine buildings in and around the park makes it the perfect destination.
Entrance is free of charge too.
Next up is famous Philosopher’s Path. This roughly 2 kilometers long pathway leads you from Ginkakuji (銀閣寺) all the way down to Nanzenji (南禅寺). A small canal follows this path which is equipped with a great number of cherry trees on either side.
Walking alongside these for a whole 2 kilometers is breathtaking.
Finally, we arrive in Kyoto’s Western outskirts, Arashiyama. This area is famous for its big forest covered mountain ranges which are a pleasant sight in either spring or fall.
Walk along the Hozu River and cross the scenic Togetsukyou Bridge to best appreciate the views. Also a favorite: booking a boat tour on said Hozu River!
The Cherry Blossom highlight in Osaka is definitely the Osaka Castle area with Nishinomaru Garden around it. Many different kinds of cherry trees are spread around the whole castle grounds and create a fantastic scenery.
There are many many more spots to have a great Hanami, it would take ages to list them all! I leave the rest for you to discover. In future articles (already did so in past ones), I will give notice for Cherry Blossom viewing spots should there be any!
Cherry Blossom Forecast for 2019
Japan’s Weather Association releases regular forecasts for the Sakura blooming period each year. For this year, the seasons is looking to start a little earlier than average:
As every year, the cherry trees first start blooming in Kyushu (九州), Japan’s southernmost main island (apart from Okinawa (沖縄)).
Here, they start as early as the 26th of March according to current data. As we climb further northeast, the Cherry Blossoms start blooming in the Kansai (関西) region around the 31st of March. For Tokyo, they are expected to start on March 29th. Farther north, the expected start of blooming extends further into April for cities like Sendai (仙台). The Hokkaido region is expected to start blooming in the beginning of May.
Keep in mind that the blooming period usually lasts around 1 – 1.5 weeks.
Things to keep in mind for flower viewing
Generally, the act of Hanami is pretty much just a normal picnic in the vicinity of cherry trees. Basically, the only rules that apply are those of common sense:
- Do not damage/disrupt the cherry trees
- Mind other visitors, do not spread out too much (space is holy!)
- Do not leave any garbage after you’re done
Regarding the second point, let me tell you about my visit to Ueno Park back in March 2018. It was wild. Getting off the train, I could already tell what was about to happen.
Arriving at the exit towards Ueno Park, you could barely even leave the station because of how packed it was. The walk to the park and through it was just filled with people, I had never seen anything like it before.
Literally every square centimeter of space was taken by people picnicking. It was quite the ride.
What I’m trying to say is: Be mindful when you visit popular spots and do not rush! If you want to secure a spot under the trees, make sure to arrive very early (before 8:00 preferably). Otherwise, you probably won’t have a chance.
Speaking of this, I recommend checking out the less popular spots as well. They might be harder to find and offer fewer trees, but enjoying them in peace and without rushing should easily be worth it.
Just explore! Walk around the city and you’re sure to find something.
Cherry Blossom season is one of Japan’s annual holy rituals that draws many people to the country. Understandably so, as the flower viewing is an amazingly peaceful and beautiful activity that allows for awesome photo opportunities!
Again, make sure to book your flights and accommodation well ahead of time if you plan to visit during the season. Expect the popular viewing spots to be well populated and be mindful of your surroundings.
All-in-all, I don’t think I need to recommend it to you as it is already widely appreciated! 🙂
That’s it for Japan’s Cherry Blossom season, I hope you enjoyed it!
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See you there!