The Ultimate Guide to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan [2020]

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The humble cherry blossom has been an important part of Japanese culture for centuries. Today, visitors come from all over the world to join in the celebrations that mark the beginning of spring, while admiring the delicate pink cherry blossoms known as “sakura.”

Update 2020: Major Cherry Blossom Festivals across Japan are being canceled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. You should adjust your travel plans accordingly.

What is the Cherry Blossom Festival?

Japan’s famous cherry blossom festival season begins around the end of March and lasts for approximately 2 weeks, depending on location. Cherry trees can bloom right through until May the further north you travel, so dedicated sakura viewers can head north to enjoy even more sakura spotting.

Top viewing spots like Maruyama Park, Mount Yoshino, Himeji Castle, and Fuji Five Lakes are some of the most atmospheric places in the world and are wonderful places to see the beautiful blooms. For those who would like to enjoy a more scaled-down celebration of spring, there are plenty of lesser-known viewing spots where visitors can picnic in peace.

The aristocrats of days gone by often wrote poetry or painted pictures to celebrate the beauty of the cherry blossom. These days, viewings are more about eating, drinking, and coming together to celebrate the beginning of spring.

Public parks, rivers, and other attractions where cherry trees are found will fill up with the smell of barbecue, food stalls, and the sound of celebrations during the season. So popular are the seasonal festivities, it can be hard to find a space in some of the more popular viewing locations.

Hot Tip: It is important to remember that not all trees bloom at the same time. The dates of the celebrations are subject to change by a day or 2 year-on-year as the winter weather and other atmospheric conditions can affect how early or late the blossoms bloom.

Why Is the Cherry Blossom so Culturally Important in Japan?

The delicate flowers of the sakura are a huge part of Japanese life, culture, and history. For many thousands of years, the act of observing them has been celebrated during the season of “Hanami.”

Translated as “flower viewing,” the festival attracts locals and visitors alike that come together to celebrate the season with outdoor parties, picnics, and other events that take place both day and night.

The blossom viewing in Japan is believed to have first started in the Nara period of the country’s history between 710 A.D. and 794 A.D. The ancient farmers also used the blooming of the sakura flowers to help them understand when the time was right to plant their rice crops, helping to keep famine at bay.

Fast forward a few hundred years and the family members and the courtiers of the most important imperial families made it fashionable to hold gatherings to celebrate the occasion of the annual new bloom at the beginning of spring.

Traditionally, the Japanese have always believed that the cherry blossom represents the fragility and the beauty of life and that every blossom is a reminder that life can also be tragically short. Even today, the newly emerging blossoms of the cherry trees are considered to be a representation of hope, beauty, and new life — all of which most definitely deserve to be celebrated.

Hot Tip: Once you know where to see the cherry trees blossom and when to get there, keep in mind that hanami can get very competitive as everyone wants to ensure that they get the best spot. Wherever you are headed, be sure to get there early!

Know Your Terminology

Cherry Blossoms at Night
Image Credit: Zhaoli JIN via Unsplash

Hanami is such a special time. The Japanese even have their own words for the different types of blooms, stages of their development, and ways in which they celebrate them.

Some of the most commonly used terms include:

  • Hanami — means both “flower” and “see,” respectively, and this word is used to refer to the cherry blossom viewing
  • Sakura — means “cherry blossom” and is derived from “saku” which simply means “to bloom”
  • Tsubomi — means that the buds have started budding but have not yet bloomed
  • Mankai — this word is used to describe the cherry blossom trees that are 80% there but not yet in full bloom
  • Migoro — means the “best time to see” or the time when all the flowers are in full bloom
  • Hanagasumi — this word is used to describe the beauty of many blossoms and translates as the “flower haze”
  • Sakura-Fubuki — means “cherry blossom snowstorm” which is what petal falling in the breeze can look like
  • Hana-no-ami — means “flower rain” for when the rain falls on the blossoms
  • Mikkaminumanosakura — this rather satisfying word is used to describe a change that happens very suddenly, like when the cherry blossoms go from full bloom to being scattered in just a short space of time

When Is the Cherry Blossom Season in Japan?

The exact dates for the cherry blossom season in Japan vary depending on where in the country you are headed. Most trees only bloom for a few days, so it’s important to know when the best time to visit each of the different locations will be. You should also be aware that there will usually be a few days between the date of the first bloom and the date of the full bloom.

Poor winter conditions can add a week to either side of the expected dates, but as a general rule of thumb, the milder the climate, the earlier in the year the blossoms will open.

There is plenty of information available to help track the forecast for the cherry blossom season. From local websites and news reports to tracking apps, there is no reason for you to miss the start of the season.

Japan Cherry Blossom Forecast 1
Forecast map shows estimated flowering dates rather than full bloom. Image Credit: JMC

The Japan Weather Association provides viewers with an early cherry blossom forecast from the start of the year and has start and end dates for the hanami season in various locations up and down the country.

There is also a private weather service called Weathermap that publishes its first cherry blossom forecast at the beginning of the year. It provides estimates and exact dates for when the hanami is likely to begin in various locations across the country.

Hot Tip: Remember, if you want to follow the blossoms, start in the south and head up to the far north to capture the blooms in all their glory.

Why Is the Cherry Blossom Season Different Each Year?

In general, the cherry blossom season runs from late March through early May every year, but some trees can begin to bloom as early as January. There are no set dates for the season, as there are certain extenuating factors that can affect the timing of the blooms all across the country.

The weather plays a large part in the process, and if the months and weeks preceding the hanami season are mild, the blossoms will be more likely to open early. Likewise, if the winter has been exceptionally cold, the blooms will open later. Weather conditions can cause the seasons to start a week or so earlier or later than the previous year, but usually, they do not vary by much more than that.

The geographical location of the blooms will also make a big difference to the start of the season. On the southernmost sub-tropical islands, for example, cherry blossoms can open as early as January.

Further north, and in bigger cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, blooms don’t usually take place until somewhere around the middle of March and later into April. On the northernmost islands and highlands, it is not unusual to wait until May to experience the hanami in all its glory.

Finally, the height at which the cherry trees are planted can also affect how long it takes them to bloom. In areas of high altitude, for example, the blossom will usually arrive later than those found in lower-altitude regions.

10 Interesting Facts About the Cherry Blossom Season

The Lifespan of the Blooms Is Only About a Week

Beauty certainly does fade fast when it comes to the sakura, where most of the cherry tree varieties that bloom during the season only last for about a week. Need more time to see experience the beauty of the blooms?

Different trees bloom at different times, meaning you could continue to experience the hanami season for 3-4 weeks if you are happy to move locations to follow the flowers.

March 27th is Cherry Blossom Day

So fond are the Japanese of their cherry blossoms trees that they have even devoted a special day to them. March 27th is known as “Sakura No Hi” (Cherry Blossom Day), which was established back in 1992 by the Cherry Blossom Association in Japan.

It was conceived to help generate more interest in the Japanese culture of hanami and to promote the cultural importance of the sakura flower.

Cherries Do Not Come From Sakura Cherry Trees

As weird as it may sound, edible cherries do not come from ornamental Japanese cherry trees. Although some hybrids and wild varieties can produce fruit, it is not for eating, and it is only the satonishiki cherry tree, grown in the Yamagata Prefecture, that produces small cherries.

The Hanami Has Gone Global

During the hanami, many photographers, bloggers, and social media influencers head to Japan to take pictures under the cherry blossoms. The increase in visitors that come to enjoy the season has not gone unnoticed by Western brands either, with companies like Starbucks and McDonald’s in Japan offering sakura-inspired products like cherry-flavored drinks and pink burger buns.

There Are More Than 600 Different Varieties of Sakura

While all the blossoms are beautiful, not all are the same. In fact, there are over 600 hybrid and wild cherry blossom species in Japan, many of which feature mutations that include changes in the size, shape, and number of petals, the size and density of the flowers, and of course, the color.

Cutting Cherry Trees Can Kill Them

Be careful how much fun you have during your hanami celebrations, as the cherry trees are sensitive to cuts and bruises. Cuts to the bark or roots of the tree can lead to rot that spreads across the whole tree, causing it to die. Be careful where you lay your picnic blanket and treat the trees with the respect they deserve.

Some of the Trees Are Very Old

On the grounds of the Jissou Temple in the Yamanashi Prefecture lies the oldest sakura in all of Japan. Known as the Jindai Zakura, the tree is the oldest of the official 3 most ancient cherry trees in Japan, believed to be over 2,000 years old.

The other 2 are the Uzumi Sakura in Motosu at 1,500 years old and the Miharu Takizakura in Fukushima that is estimated to be 1,000 years old.

You Can Eat the Petals of the Sakura

Sakura petals are soaked in salt in a process called “shiozuke” to produce a distinctively flavored delicacy called “sakurazuke.” The final result is usually put on bread or wrapped around a red bean curd to create a traditional Japanese treat called Sakura mochi.

You Can Drink Them, Too

Adding 2 or 3 “sakurazuke” flowers into a cup of hot water produces a lightly flavored, pretty looking beverage that is known as “sakurayu.” This traditional hot drink is often enjoyed at gatherings such as parties or weddings.

Hanami Isn’t Just About the Blooms

While the festival of hanami is most about celebrating the beautiful blooms of the cherry blossom trees, it is also an excuse to come together to drink sake and beer, eat sweet treats, and celebrate just being together at the beginning of the spring.

In fact, the Japanese even have a proverb that translates to “practicality over aesthetics,” meaning the experienced hanami enthusiasts know that the blossoms are only a small part of the overall celebrations.

Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan

Wherever you are in Japan, there are so many great places to view the blossoms. Here are some of the best of them.

Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo

Ueno Park Cherry Blossoms
Ueno Park. Image Credit: Trevor Paxton via Unsplash

Ueno Park 

With around 800 trees lining the paths through the park, Ueno Park is one of the most popular (and busiest) hanami spots in all of Tokyo. Visitors come to join friends and family as they picnic in the park, enjoy a boat ride on the lake, and capture some of the earliest examples of the sakura to appear every season.

This location can get very crowded, so it is best to get there early and get set up for a day of family fun that can stretch way into the evening, under the light of the lanterns that hang from the trees.

The park is open from 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. all week.

Shinjuku Gyoen 

Tucked away beneath the skyscrapers and alleyways, Shinjuku Gyoen is a gorgeous green refuge full of traditional gardens and a quaint traditional tea house. Shinjuku Gyoen is a more peaceful base from which to enjoy the cherry blossoms, and visitors come here instead of some of the busier venues to quietly enjoy the breathtaking sight of 1,300 cherry trees blooming at different stages.

As well as the world-famous cherry trees, Shinjuku Gyoen also offers an English-style garden, a French garden, and a traditional Japanese garden. All of these offer plenty of perfect picnic spots for you to enjoy, hidden away from the busy city streets.

Shinjuku Gyoen is open every day between 9:00 a.m. and 4.30 p.m. but closed on Mondays.

Sumida Park

Visitors have flocked to Sumida Park to celebrate the beginning of spring for centuries, and the park is one of the most famous hanami spots in the city. Running along both sides of the river, the park is just a 5-minute walk from Asakusa Station and is close to the Tokyo Skytree.

Revelers come to celebrate the season with picnics and parties that run late into the evening when lanterns light the way. If the park becomes too crowded, take to the water on one of the many boat cruises and capture a unique view of the blossoms from the other side.

The park is open 24 hours.

Koishikawa Botanical Gardens

Situated in the grounds of the prestigious Tokyo University, these landscaped gardens are home to thousands of cherry trees that bloom in the spring. The 10-15 minute walk from either Myogadani Station or Hakusan Station gives the gardens a feeling of seclusion and distance from the busy city streets, yet this is one of the most peaceful places from which to enjoy the hanami.

Home to cherry trees of various species, the Koishikawa Botanical Gardens are the oldest botanical gardens in Japan and were once home to the original Koishikawa Medicinal Herb Garden. They are now a peaceful and enjoyable location for coming together to capture the hanami.

The gardens are open every day between 9:00 a.m. and 4.30 p.m. but closed on Mondays.

Bottom Line: Tokyo is a modern, fast-paced city that still embraces its traditional roots. We’ve assembled the ultimate guide to visiting, experiencing, and enjoying Tokyo

Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto

Nijo Castle

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Nijo Castle is a beautiful place to explore all year round. Come the spring, however, and the varying species of cherry blossom trees that can be found there make this a firm favorite for visitors looking to celebrate hanami.

From late March through to mid-April, the castle grounds are perfect for enjoying a picnic under the cherry trees while the sakura blossoms gently fall around you. Being just a short bus ride from Kyoto station, Nijo Castle surprisingly still manages to be one of the less crowded locations for viewing. Once the residence of the great Imperial family, you can also enjoy a tour of the castle and grounds as well during your visit.

The castle is open from 8:45 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. all week.

Maruyama Park

Offering a heady blend of traditional Japanese style and essence, Maruyama Park is a beacon of beauty set against the stark modernity of downtown Kyoto. The park is famous for the yozakura of Gion, a special cherry tree that illuminates the entrance of the park, giving it an ethereal, otherworldly feel at night time.

As the most popular, and often crowded, spot in the city for cherry blossom viewing, the focal point of the hanami here is the tall shidarezakura (weeping cherry tree) that visitors flock to see in the springtime. Located next to the Yasaka Shrine, the park is easily reached on foot or by public transport.

The park is open 24 hours.

Hirano Shrine

The early blossoming cherry trees at Hirano (the sakigake-zakura) are considered to mark the beginning of the hanami season in Kyoto. Later during the celebrations, the blossoms are illuminated when night falls, adding a whole new dimension to the beauty of hanami.

Hirano Shrine is also home to the Okasai Festival that takes place towards the end of the cherry blossom viewing season, where local people wear traditional Japanese outfits in a procession around the shrine. Although the shrine is located just outside the city, it is just a few minute’s walk from the Kinugasako-mae bus stop, making it easily accessible all year round.

The shrine is open from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. all week.

Kyoto Botanical Gardens

Home to over 4,500 different plant species, Kyoto Botanical Gardens is home to the largest conservatory in Japan and a popular destination for those looking to join in with the hanami celebrations. From mid-March to April, the forest of cherry blossom trees that extend north from the conservatory are some of the most beautiful in Kyoto.

During the hanami, the cherry blossom trees are lit up with lanterns every evening, and the gardens are open later than usual to allow visitors to enjoy them after dark. Situated immediately outside Kitayama Station, the Botanical Gardens are one of the most central spots in which to picnic and party during your sakura viewing.

The gardens are open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. all week. During the cherry blossom season, hours are extended until 9:00 p.m. with the last admission at 8:00 p.m.

Daigoji Temple

This ancient Buddhist temple has been a popular hanami spot for many centuries, and it was on the grounds of the temple that the first cherry trees were planted over 700 years ago by the famous Japanese warrior and general Hideyoshi Toyotomi.

The temple is considered to be one of the most important temples of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism, and it’s a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also famous for Somei Yoshino, the weeping cherry blossom, as well as the beautiful cherry blossom tunnel at the approach to the temple.

The temple is just 15 minutes walk from Daigoji station, and the best time to see the sakura is from late March to early April.

The gardens are open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. all week.

Hot Tip: You can take a 3-hour evening cherry blossom and food tour of the Demachiyanagi area of Kyoto with a local guide. This is a perfect way to experience the blossoms, local cuisine, and get out of the busy city center. You can check tour prices and availability here

Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Osaka

Osaka Castle Cherry Blossom
Osaka Castle. Image Credit: Bagus Pangestu via Pexels

Osaka Castle Park

Home to over 300 cherry trees, Osaka Castle Park is one of the most popular places in the city to celebrate the hanami and the beginning of spring. Situated within the grounds of the castle, Nishinomaru Garden is the perfect place for cherry-viewing picnics and parties, set against the stunning backdrop of the ancient castle steeped in Japanese history.

The castle is also famous for the late-blooming, double-petal yaezakura cherry trees that can be found in the south of the plum grove, which is also a beautiful spot to enjoy the plum blossoms that flower a little earlier from January through to March. Centrally located close to both Morinomiya and Osakajokoen stations, Osaka Castle Park can get very busy during hanami.

The park is open 24 hours.

Hot Tip: You can take a 3-hour cherry blossom and food tour with a local around the neighborhood that surrounds Osaka Castle. Click here for more details

Koriyama Castle

With 800 cherry trees lining the moat, this pretty little castle has undergone reconstruction to offer one of the most scenic spots from which to view the sakura in all of Osaka. Capture pink clouds of blossoms set against the ancient ruins of the original castle as you enter through the famous Ote Gate, or enjoy a long meander through the castle grounds during hanami.

In the evenings, the trees are illuminated with lanterns giving the castle and its grounds a fairytale feel. Visitors come from all over from the mid-March through the middle of April to picnic and party under the cherry trees. The castle sits an hour or so outside of Osaka but can be easily reached by train to Kintetsu-Koriyama station.

The castle grounds are open 24 hours.

Settsukyo Park

Located outside the city of Osaka, Settsukyo Park is surrounded by a scenic valley offering a beautiful location from which to see the cherry blossoms.

At the south side of this extensive park lies a cherry blossom garden that is home to about 800 trees, as well as lawned areas and children’s playgrounds. Perfect for family picnics during hanami, visitors to the park can also enjoy long woodland hikes or take a dip in the naturally occurring hot spring pools.

The park is about an hour away from the city center and can be reached by taking the bus from the JR Takatsuki station to Tsukawaki. As night falls, the blossoms are illuminated with paper lanterns, and the park is the perfect place to see the sakura during the end of March through to the middle of April.

The park is open 24 hours.

Kema Sakuranomiya Park

Running for 4 kilometers on either side of the Okawa River, Kema Sakuranomiya Park is an inner-city oasis that offers nearly 5,000 cherry trees that blossom from the end of March through to the middle of April.

The riverside cherry-trees form a tunnel of soft pink blossoms that are accessible 24 hours a day, and visitors flock to enjoy the food stalls and party atmosphere that descends in the park during hanami.

For just 1 week, the cherry trees are illuminated at night, making the river banks the perfect place for a romantic stroll among the blossoms, and the park is easily reached from Sakuranomiya station.

The park is open 24 hours.

Osaka Mint

During the middle of April, the Osaka branch of the national mint offers over 500 meters of cherry-tree lined paths located within the grounds of this prestigious building. With some 350 trees in full bloom, these late-blooming, double-petal varieties are some of the rarest in the city, making a visit to this unusual location very worthwhile.

There are strict rules to follow during the tour, including no eating or drinking and a regimented one-way walkway. Still, the pretty pink blossoms look particular spectacular under the lanterns at night, making this a popular location to experience hanami.

Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Kyushu

Maizuru Park

As the most famous spot in the city to enjoy hanami, Maizuru Park was built around the ruins of Fukuoka Castle. During late March through to early April, the cherry blossoms reach full bloom, creating a beautiful sea of pink blossoms contrasted against the blue of the ocean where the castle grounds jut out to meet the water.

Deliberated planted to surround the castle itself, the cherry trees look as delightful up close as they do from afar, and the castle and park are one of the most popular places to see the sakura in the Kyushu region.

The park is open 24 hours.

Kikuchi Park

Set in the Kumamoto Prefecture, Kikuchi Park is home to over 3,000 cherry trees that offer a variety of different types of single-layer and multiple-layer petals. Located on the top of a hill, the park also offers some outstanding views out across the city of Kikuchi and beyond.

A popular destination with families wanting to celebrate hanami, the park has a large playground, a selection of athletic equipment, and an onsen hot spring shrine, making it suitable for visitors of all ages. The park is about 20 minutes drive from the town of Kikuchi and is best reached by car. The period from late March through to early April is the best time to see the sakura.

The park is open 24 hours.

Nishi Park

Nishi Park is located in the center of Fukuoka City and offers a stunning urban oasis in the heart of an industrial city. With nearly 1,300 cherry trees dotted throughout the park, visitors come to picnic on the open lawns as the cherry tree petals fall around them.

Nishi Park also offers some fantastic views out across Hakata Bay and the islands that lie on the edge of the ocean from the observation deck that is popular all year round. The park is a short but steep walk from Omachi Nishi-Koen Station or you can take the bus to the imposing entrance at torii gate.

The park is open 24 hours.

Isshin-Ji Temple

Set in the Oita Prefecture, this temple lies in a deep valley surrounded by majestic mountains that offer scenic views all year round. During hanami, the area is famous for a rare sight known as the “sea of clouds” where 15 different varieties of cherry blossom fill the temple grounds with unusual colors such as green and yellow.

During April, the petals are blown up on gentle breezes from the bottom of the valley to form a “cherry blossom tornado” that later settles on the ground to form a “cherry blossom carpet” that draws visitors from all around. Isshin-Ji is a 30-minute walk from the Tsukano Onsen bus stop, or you can drive.

The temple is open from 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. all week.

Kusaba River

The peaceful banks of the Kusaba River are home to around 1.5 kilometers of cherry trees that line the banks. The Kusaba River become busy with locals and visitors celebrating the sakura, and enjoying a peaceful stroll along the river banks.

At night, the cherry blossoms are lit up to create an elegant atmosphere among the peaceful scenery, which sits in direct contrast to the bustling crowds and food stalls that appear during the day.

Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Hokkaido

Aerial Top view of Fort Goryokaku with cherry blossom
Fort Goryokaku. Image Credit: Potus via Shutterstock

Fort Goryokaku

Goryokaku Park is considered one of the best places in Hakodate to experience the hanami season and one that is very popular all year round. Home to Fort Goryokaku, an unusual star-shaped moated fort and observation tower, the park is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic or barbecue under the blossoms.

With more than 1,600 cherry trees, the 100-meter tall observation deck gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy the sea of blooms from above, as well as offering amazing views out across Mount Hakodate and beyond. The park is also easily accessible from Hakodate Station by bus, tram, or on foot.

The park is open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. all week except November to March when it closes at 5:00 p.m.

Moerenuma Park 

Located in Sapporo, Moerenuma Park is surrounded by majestic mountains that add to the beauty of the hanami. This man-made oasis was designed with the help of world-famous sculptor Isamu Noguchi. With its playgrounds and exercise facilities, it is a great spot for families to enjoy watching the cherry blossoms fall.

The park is also home to over 10,000 cherry trees of 250 different kinds. During hanami season, viewers can enjoy a variety of events, including live music and traditional performances. They can also spend time exploring the Matsumae Castle, Ryuunin Temple, Kozenji Temple, Sakura Museum, and Matsumae Shrine that can also be found within the park grounds.

The park is open from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. all week.

Hakodate Park 

Popular for night time viewings during hanami, Hakodate Park is home to several hundred cherry blossom trees that are illuminated a night, giving the park a truly magical atmosphere. Visitors come to watch the blossoms fall, enjoy picnics on the lawns, or explore the food carts and other stalls that are set up during hanami.

Hakodate Park also features a beautiful water fountain, a children’s playground, and even its very own mini zoo, making it an incredibly family-friendly spot from which to enjoy the festival. Located on the hillside of Mount Hakodate, the park can be reached by public transport.

The park is open from 8:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. all week.

Shizunai Nijukken Road 

As a firm contender for one of the top hanami spots in all of Japan, this natural landmark is a definite must-see during hanami.

Running about 7 kilometers long and 36 meters wide, the road is very straight and is lined with some 3,000 sakura trees. Considered to be the longest row of cherry trees anywhere in Japan, a drive along this stretch of the Nijukken Road is like driving through a tunnel of cherry blossoms.

Over 200,000 visitors drive along the road every year, and there is usually plenty of space to park up and walk the path through the blossoms before enjoying the food stalls and other attractions that come during the hanami season.

Seiryu-Ji Temple

As home to the last blooming cherry trees in Japan, the Buddhist temple of Seiryu-Ji can be found in the easternmost city of Nemuro. It is also where some of the oldest cherry trees in Japan can be found and features around 30 Chishima-zakura trees, one of which is said to be an impressive 150 years old.

The trees bloom from mid-May through to the end of the month, and during the hanami season, the temple grounds are full of visitors enjoying picnics and parties underneath the cherry trees. As one of the most modern temples in Japan, visitors also come to enjoy the extensive grounds and see the Shōwa Daibutsu, the tallest seated bronze figure of Buddha in Japan.

Other Great Spots to View the Cherry Blossoms in Japan

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park 

Combine history with beauty at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and enjoy this peaceful, inner-city oasis that was created as a memorial to the first atomic bombs dropped during World War II. The park is also home to the Peace Memorial Museum that is dedicated to documenting the tragic events of 1945.

There are 300 cherry trees planted throughout the park, with many of them lining the banks of the river. Although it can get busy during the hanami season, you should still be able to find space to spread your blanket and enjoy a picnic while viewing the sakura.

The park is open 24 hours.

Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa

Considered to be one of the very best landscaped gardens in Japan, Kenrokuen Garden is as famous for its stunning grounds and traditional Japanese gardens as it is for its cherry trees.

Over 400 cherry trees can be found in the gardens themselves and on the grounds of the nearby Kanazawa Castle, and the extensive open spaces offer plenty of opportunities for visitors to find a quiet spot to enjoy the hanami.

Located within the city of Kanazawa, the park is easy to reach using the famous Japanese bullet trains and other local transport, and the best time to see the sakura is early to mid-April.

From 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., the castle and gardens are open.

Hirosaki Castle

Situated at the northern tip of Honshu main island, Hirosaki Castle is one of the very best viewing spots in the country and is perfect for those looking to enjoy late-blooming blossoms.

From late April into May, some 2,500 cherry trees form beautiful blossom tunnels that are illuminated at night. The castle moat turns pink from the floating blossom petals, and the trees look stunning set against the backdrop of the castle itself.

The grounds of the castle is the perfect place to find a picnic spot during hanami, or you can take to the water on a rental rowing boat. The castle is easy to reach using public transport or enjoy the 20-minute walk from Hirosaki center.

The castle is open from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. during the cherry blossom festival.

Himeji Castle

With its pristine exteriors and picture-perfect grounds, Himeji Castle is the epitome of Japanese perfection, as well as being one of the very best spots in the country to see the sakura.

A Japanese national treasure and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this hilltop castle has survived thousands of years, with the occasional renovation, to remain one of Japan’s most iconic landmarks.

During early April, visitors come not just to see the castle but also to experience hanami season, as more than 1,000 cherry trees bloom in the immaculate grounds and gardens. The sea of pink petals set against the white walls of the castle is possibly one of the most beautiful settings in which to view the sakura.

The castle is open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. all week.

Mount Fuji Cherry Blossoms
Mount Fuji. Image Credit: Daniel Hehn via Unsplash

Mount Fuji

Experience not 1, but 2 Japanese icons at once with a trip to see the sakura that grows on the site of Japan’s highest volcano. Various spots located in the Fuji Five Lake region offer amazing views of the cherry blossom trees, and from mid- to late-April, you can experience hanami while taking in this world-famous landmark.

Find yourself a space to sit in the celebrations at the Chureito Pagoda with Mount Fuji in the background, or settle yourself on the northern shores of Lake Kawaguchiko or on the bridge at Oshino Hakkai. Wherever you choose to enjoy the hanami season from, you will be rewarded with some of the most amazing views Japan has to offer on and around Mount Fuji.

10 Popular Cherry Trees Youll See in Japan

There are over 600 different varieties of cherry trees that grow in Japan, a few of which are native to the country, with many more having been cultivated for decorative use throughout the centuries. From the color of the blossoms to the shape and form of the tree, each variety of cherry tree is as beautiful as the next.

The 10 most popular types of trees you are likely to see during hanami include:

Yamazakura

This is the most common variety of cherry tree to be found all across Japan, and one that can be found growing wildly in some parts of the country. The very light pink blossoms have delicate petals and the leaves that develop at the same time as the flowers give the tree a fresh, floral feel. Yamazakura trees tend to last for a long time, with trunks that can grow as large as 1 meter in diameter when aged.

Somei Yoshino

Cultivated many centuries ago, the Somie Yohsino is one of the most commonly found cherry trees in Japan. With delicate petals that are light pink in color (almost white) and pretty 5-petal blossoms, the Somei Yoshino, create a blanket of color during the hanami season.

Shidarezakura

As one of the most iconic cherry trees in all Japan, these weeping trees have branches that arch and curve to create some of the most stunning sakura during the hanami season. The delicate white flowers bloom about a week ahead of the cherry blossoms, and there are 2 different types of Shidarezakura – those with 5 petal blossoms and those that have more than 5 petals.

Kikuzakura

This late-blooming blossom doesn’t usually make an appearance until sometime between late April and early May, making it one of the last to visit during the hanami season. It is also one of the most densely covered trees, with over 100 petals per bloom, giving the Kikuzakura a look and feel of a cloud of soft pink petals.

Kanhizakura

With unique looking, bell-shaped petals, the Kanhizakura is one of the most beloved cherry blossoms the world over. Early blooming and stunning to look at, the pretty pink petals have an intense color that sets them apart from the other varieties of cherry trees in Japan.

Ichiyo

Another late bloomer, the Ichiyo tree, doesn’t even start to flower until mid-April when it starts to produce fresh green leaves and soft pink petals. Quite common-place throughout Japan, this tree has a dense and attractive look, making it a popular choice for gardens and formal displays both in Japan and the world over.

Edohigan

This hybrid type of cherry blossom is one of the earliest bloomers every spring, and the pale-pink petals can be seen from early April onwards. The densely clustered petals are so pale in color that they appear to be almost white, and the name itself comes from the spring equinox, or “higan,” which represents the time when they bloom.

Ukon

Presenting a break from the traditional pink blossoms in Japan, the Ukon tree starts to bloom in mid-April and captures the attention of viewers with its unique coloring. The copper-colored leaves and creamy-yellow petals create a cloud-like scenery that really does stand out from the rest.

Fugenzo

Another unusually colored tree, the Fuganzo has light pink petals that turn darker over time. These contrast against the pretty copper-brown leaves and make for a stunning combination that sakura enthusiasts and first-time visitors alike will fall in love with.

Shogetsu

One of the prettiest of all the cherry trees, the Shogetsu tree looks very traditional with pretty pale pink flowers and fresh green leaves. The tree itself spreads gracefully to create a sea of color, and the semi-double flowers hang in clusters to give the appearance of depth and density.

Bottom Line: With over 600 different types of cherry trees in Japan, you may want to learn more about the many varieties here.

What to Pack for Seeing Cherry Blossoms

The weather in Japan varies depending on location, so be sure to check the weather forecast before you travel. As a general rule, though, springtime in Japan is usually a little on the chilly side with a definite chance of rain wherever you are.

Rainy Day Viewing Cherry Blossoms
Ueno Park in Tokyo. Image Credit: chuck hsu via Shutterstock

To ensure you are ready for anything the elements have to throw at you, make sure you pack:

Warm and Waterproof Clothing

Dress for the rain and expect to wear a waterproof jacket throughout your stay. Northern parts of the country can still see temperatures dip below freezing at night time, so layers are your friend, and you may even want to consider thermal base layers when it’s really cold.

You will be outside in the open so comfortable, temperature appropriate clothing should take priority over looking like a style icon, and be ready to wrap up as the sun sets.

Waterproof Walking Boots

Spending the day with wet feet can seriously impair your enjoyment. Be prepared and pack a pair of walking boots and thick socks that will keep your feet warm and dry while you are outside.

Boots are better than shoes as they will prevent water slipping in over the top of the shoe, and if it has been raining, walking around parks, tourist attractions, and open spaces can make it tricky to avoid puddles.

Umbrellas and Waterproof Covers

Even a fine drizzle can soak you through eventually, so make bringing an umbrella a priority. In fact, you may even want to pack more than 1 in case you leave it behind when you most need it. You don’t need to pack a gigantic golf umbrella, but do make sure that the umbrella is big enough to completely cover you, while still being small enough to pack away.

You may also want to consider a rain cover for your backpack, as heavy rain can eventually seep through most bags, leaving your belongings damp and potentially damaged. Better yet, get yourself a waterproof backpack to make sure items like your travel camera are completely protected.

Final Thoughts

No country knows how to enjoy and celebrate the natural phenomenon of the cherry blossom season better than Japan. An amazing country, where stark modern cities sit side by side with ancient landmarks, the hanami festival is a once in a lifetime experience that should be enjoyed by everyone visiting Japan during the spring.

When you’re ready to book your travel, review all of the best ways to fly from the U.S. to Japan with points and miles.


Frequently asked questions

Is Sakura and Cherry Blossom the same thing?

“Sakura” is the Japanese word for cherry trees and their blossoms. “Hanami” is the Japanese word for viewing the cherry blossoms and is derived from the Japanese words for flower and view.

What month is cherry blossom season in Japan?

Cherry trees will blossom depending on various factors such as geographic location and the weather. In southern Japan, the blossoms typically happen as early as January. In the north, it can be as late as May. For most major cities the blossom happens towards the end of March and into April.

How is Hanami celebrated?

Hanami, or the Cherry Blossom Festival, is celebrated all over Japan when thousands of locals and tourists alike descend on popular viewing spots, gardens, and parks to view the blossoms. Picnics, food stalls, drinking, and songs are all part of the celebrations.

Amar Hussain

About Amar Hussain

Amar was born and raised in England, UK, embarked on an 11 country round the world gap year after graduation and then became well and truly hooked. The first gap year inspired a second which ended up being a 23 country down-the-world trip from Canada to Antarctica. Since then Amar has endeavored to turn his gap year into a ‘gap life’ and has spent the last 10 years traveling the 7 continents.

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2 comments

  1. Will Shropshire February 28, 2020

    Had tickets booked for 3/19-3/26 but looks like that isn’t happening anymore with coronavirus. Sigh.

    Reply

  2. I also canceled this morning. Many months of planning down the drain. There is always 2021 🙂

    Reply

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