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The Ultimate Guide to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan [2024]

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The humble cherry blossom has been essential to Japanese culture for centuries. Today, visitors come from around the world to celebrate the beginning of spring while admiring the delicate pink cherry blossoms, or sakura.

What Is the Cherry Blossom Festival?

Japan’s famous cherry blossom festival season begins around the end of March and lasts approximately 2 weeks, depending on where in the country you are. Cherry trees can bloom until May the further north you travel, so dedicated sakura viewers can head north to enjoy even more flower 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 old often wrote poetry or painted pictures to celebrate the beauty of cherry blossoms. 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 grow fill up with the smell of barbecue, food stalls, and the sounds of celebrations during the season. The seasonal festivities are so popular that finding a space in some of the more popular viewing locations can be challenging.

Hot Tip: It is important to remember that not all trees bloom simultaneously. 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 emerge.

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,” hanami attracts locals and visitors who celebrate the season day and night with outdoor parties, picnics, and other events.

Sakura viewing in Japan is believed to have started in the Nara period between 710 A.D. and 794 A.D. The ancient farmers also used the blooming of the sakura 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 courtiers of the most important imperial families made it fashionable to hold gatherings to celebrate the annual new bloom at the beginning of spring.

Traditionally, the Japanese have always believed that the cherry blossom represents life’s fragility and beauty and that every blossom is a reminder that life can also be tragically short. Even today, the newly emerging blossoms of the cherry trees represent hope, beauty, and new life.

Hot Tip: Once you know where to see the cherry trees blossom and when to get there, remember that hanami can get competitive, as everyone wants to ensure they get the best spot. Wherever you’re 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, their development stages, and the ways they celebrate them.

Some of the most commonly used terms include:

  • Hanami: Means both “flower” and “see,” respectively, and is used to refer to cherry blossom viewing
  • Sakura: Means “cherry blossom” (both the flower and the tree) and is derived from “saku,” which 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 about 80% there but not yet in full bloom.
  • Migoro: Means the “best time to see” or when all the flowers are in full bloom
  • Hanagasumi: This word describes the beauty of many blossoms and translates as the “flower haze.”
  • Sakura-fubuki: Means “cherry blossom snowstorm,” which is what petals 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 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 by where in the country you are. Most trees only bloom for a few days, so it’s essential to know the best time to visit each location. You should also be aware that there will usually be a few days between the first bloom and the full bloom.

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

Plenty of information is available to help you track the forecast for the cherry blossom season, from local websites and news reports to tracking apps. With a little research, you should be able to catch the start of the season.

Cherry Blossom Flowering Forecast Map 032824
Image Credit: Japan Meteorological Corporation

At the start of the year, the Japan Meteorological Corporation provides viewers with an early cherry blossom forecast. It has start and end dates for hanami season across the country.

Hot Tip: 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, cherry blossom season runs from late March through early May, but some trees can begin to bloom as early as January. There are no set dates for the season, as extenuating factors can affect the timing of the blooms across the country.

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

The geography also affects the start of the season. For example, cherry blossoms on the southernmost subtropical islands can open as early as January. Further north, and in bigger cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, blooms don’t usually occur until around the middle of March and later into April. On the northernmost islands and highlands, waiting until May to experience hanami in all its glory is not unusual.

Finally, the altitude 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 usually arrives later than those in lower altitudes.

10 Interesting Facts About the Cherry Blossom Season

The Lifespan of the Blooms Is Only About a Week

Beauty certainly does fade fast for the sakura. Most cherry tree varieties that bloom during the season only last for about a week.

Need more time to experience the beauty of the blooms? Different trees bloom at other times, meaning you could continue to experience hanami for 3 to 4 weeks, if you don’t mind following the flowers.

March 27 Is Cherry Blossom Day

The Japanese are so fond of their cherry blossom trees that they have even devoted a special day to them. March 27 is Sakura No Hi, or Cherry Blossom Day, which was established 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.

Cherry Blossom Trees Do Not Bear Cherries

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, they’re not for eating. In Japan, only the Sato-nishiki cherry tree, grown in the Yamagata Prefecture, produces small cherries.

Hanami Has Gone Global

Many photographers and social media influencers head to Japan to take pictures under the cherry blossoms during hanami. The increase in visitors that come to enjoy the season has not gone unnoticed by global brands, either, with the Japanese branches of companies like Starbucks and McDonald’s 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

Japan’s oldest sakura, the Jindai Zakura, lies on the grounds of Jissou Temple in the Yamanashi Prefecture. It is believed to be over 2,000 years old and is the oldest of Japan’s official 3 most ancient cherry trees.

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

You Can Eat the Petals of the Sakura

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

You Can Drink Them, Too

Adding 2 or 3 sakurazuke flowers to a cup of hot water produces the lightly flavored, pretty-looking beverage sakurayu. This traditional hot drink is often enjoyed at parties or weddings.

Hanami Isn’t Just About the Blooms

While hanami is mostly about 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 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 many great places to view the blossoms. Here are some of the best.

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 Tokyo’s most popular (and busiest) hanami spots. 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 sakura to appear every season.

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

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

Shinjuku Gyoen 

Tucked away between 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.

In addition to the world-famous cherry trees, Shinjuku Gyoen offers an English-style, French-style, and traditional Japanese gardens. These gardens provide plenty of perfect picnic spots, hidden away from the busy city streets.

Shinjuku Gyoen is open between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. every day but closed on Mondays.

Sumida Park

Visitors have flocked to Sumida Park for centuries to celebrate the beginning of spring, and it is one of the most famous hanami spots in the city. Running along both sides of the river, the park is a 5-minute walk from Asakusa Station and 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 from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. every day.

Koishikawa Botanical Gardens

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

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

The gardens are open daily between 9 a.m. and 4.30 p.m. but closed on Mondays.

Bottom Line: Tokyo is a modern, fast-paced city still embracing 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, the varying species of cherry blossom trees that can be found here make this a solid favorite for visitors looking to celebrate hanami.

From late March to mid-April, the castle grounds are perfect for enjoying a picnic under the cherry trees while the sakura blossoms gently fall around you. Surprisingly, even though it’s just a short bus ride from Kyoto station, Nijo Castle still manages to be a less crowded location for viewing. Once the residence of the imperial family, the castle offers tours.

The castle is open from 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. all week, with the last entry at 4 p.m.

Maruyama Park 

Offering a heady blend of traditional Japanese style and culture, 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’s illuminated, giving it an ethereal, otherworldly feel at nighttime.

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, or weeping cherry tree, which visitors flock to see in the springtime. As it’s next to the Yasaka Shrine, the park is easily reached on foot or by public transport.

The park is open 24 hours a day.

Hirano Shrine

The early blossoming cherry trees at Hirano (the sakigake-zakura) 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, which takes place toward the end of cherry blossom viewing season. Local people wear traditional Japanese outfits in a procession around the shrine. Although the shrine is just outside the city, it’s just a few minutes’ walk from the Kinugasako-mae bus stop, making it easily accessible all year round.

The shrine is open from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.

Kyoto Botanical Gardens

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

During 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. Immediately outside Kitayama Station, the botanical gardens are one of the most central spots to picnic and party during your sakura viewing.

The gardens are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. all week (last entry at 4 p.m.). During cherry blossom season, hours are extended until 9 p.m., with the last admission at 8 p.m. 

Daigoji Temple

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

The temple is considered one of the most important temples of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also famous for somei-Yoshino, the weeping cherry blossom, and the beautiful cherry blossom tunnel at the approach to the temple.

The temple is a 15-minute 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 a.m. to 5 p.m. all week.

Hot Tip: You can take a 3-hour evening cherry blossom and food tour around Demachiyanagi Station 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 hanami and the beginning of spring. Situated within the castle grounds, Nishinomaru Garden is the perfect place for sakura-viewing picnics and parties, set against the stunning backdrop of the ancient castle steeped in Japanese history.

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

The park is open from 9 a.m to 9 p.m. during cherry blossom season.

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 blossom trees lining the moat, this pretty little castle has undergone reconstruction to offer one of the most scenic spots in Osakae sakura — you see all of the 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, lanterns illuminate the trees, giving the castle and its grounds a fairytale feel. Visitors come from all over from mid-March through the middle of April to picnic and party under the cherry trees. The castle is 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 a day.

Settsukyo Park

Located outside Osaka, Settsukyo Park is surrounded by a scenic valley offering a beautiful place to see the cherry blossoms.

On the south side of this extensive park lies a cherry blossom garden with about 800 trees, manicured lawns, and children’s playgrounds, making it perfect for family picnics during hanami. Visitors to the park can also enjoy long woodland hikes or take a dip in the natural hot springs.

As night falls, the blossoms are illuminated with paper lanterns, and the park is the perfect place to see the sakura from the end of March through to the middle of April.

The park is about an hour from the city center and can be reached by bus from JR Takatsuki Station to Tsukawaki

The park is open 24 hours.

Kema Sakuranomiya Park

Running for 2.5 miles on either side of the Okawa River, Kema Sakuranomiya Park is an innercity oasis offering nearly 5,000 cherry trees that blossom from the end of March to the middle of April.

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

Osaka Mint

In mid-April, the Osaka branch of the National Mint opens up its grounds to let visitors experience over 1,600 feet of sakura-lined paths. 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.

The tour has strict rules, including no eating or drinking and rules about going in 1 direction down the walkway. Still, the pink blossoms look particularly spectacular under the lanterns at night, making this a wonderful place to experience hanami.

The mint is open from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. daily (last entrance at 4 p.m.)

Best Places To See Cherry Blossoms in Kyushu

Maizuru Park 

As the most famous spot in the city to enjoy hanami, Maizuru Park was established 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.

Planted surrounding the castle, the cherry trees look as delightful up close as they do from afar. The castle and park are among the most popular places to see the sakura in the Kyushu region.

The park is open 24 hours a day.

Kikuchi Park

Set in the Kumamoto Prefecture, Kikuchi Park is home to over 3,000 cherry trees with various types of single-layer and multiple-layer petals. On top of a hill, the park also provides outstanding views of 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, or hot spring, shrine, making it suitable for visitors of all ages. The park is about a 20-minute drive from the town of Kikuchi and is best reached by car. The period from late March to early April is the best time to see the sakura here.

The park is open 24 hours a day.

Nishi Park

Nishi Park is 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, the park has open lawns that draw families as the petals of the cherry trees fall around them.

Nishi Park observation deck also offers fantastic views across Hakata Bay and the islands lying on the ocean’s edge, which 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 the torii gate.

The park is open 24 hours a day.

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 blossoms, some with unusual colors such as green and yellow, fill the temple grounds.

During April, gentle breezes blow petals up from the bottom of the valley to form a “cherry blossom tornado” that later settles on the ground to create 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 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. all week.

Kusaba River

The peaceful banks of the Kusaba River are home to almost a mile of cherry trees that line the banks. The Kusaba River becomes 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 directly contrasts 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 hanami season and is popular all year round. Home to Fort Goryokaku, a 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 to gawk at, the 330-foot-tall observation deck allows visitors to enjoy the sea of blooms from above and offers amazing views of Mount Hakodate and beyond. The park is also easily accessible from Hakodate Station by bus, tram, or foot.

The park is open from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. all week except from November to March, when it closes at 6 p.m.

Moerenuma Park

Sapporo’s Moerenuma Park is surrounded by majestic mountains that add to the beauty of hanami. World-famous sculptor Isamu Noguchi designed this oasis, whose playgrounds and exercise facilities make it excellent for families 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 explore Matsumae Castle, Ryuunin Temple, Kozenji Temple, Sakura Museum, and Matsumae Shrine within the park grounds.

The park is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. all week (last entry at 9 p.m.).

Hakodate Park 

Popular for nighttime viewings during hanami, Hakodate Park is home to several hundred cherry blossom trees that are illuminated at 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 set up during hanami.

Hakodate Park also features a beautiful water fountain, a children’s playground, and even a small zoo, making it an incredibly family-friendly spot to enjoy the festival. On the hillside of Mount Hakodate, the park can be reached by public transport.

The park is open 24 hours a day.

Shizunai Nijukken Road 

This natural landmark is a firm contender for top hanami spot in Japan. It is a definite must-see during hanami.

The road is almost 4 1/2 miles long and 120 feet wide, straight, and lined with 3,000 sakura trees. Considered 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

The Buddhist temple of Seiryu-Ji is in the easternmost city of Nemuro, home to the last cherry trees to bloom in Japan every year. It’s also where some of the oldest cherry trees in Japan are found. The temple features around 30 Chishima-zakura trees, one of which is said to be 150 years old.

The trees bloom from mid-May to the end of the month. During the hanami season, the temple grounds are full of visitors enjoying picnics and parties underneath the cherry trees. One of Japan’s most modern temples, it has extensive grounds and the Shōwa Daibutsu, the tallest seated bronze figure of Buddha in Japan.

The temple is open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. from April to October and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from November to March.

Other Great Spots To View the Cherry Blossoms in Japan

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park 

Combine history with beauty at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and enjoy this peaceful, innercity oasis that was created as a memorial to those who died in the first atomic bomb attack. The park is also home to the Peace Memorial Museum, dedicated to documenting the tragic events of 1945.

Three hundred cherry trees are planted throughout the park, 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

Kenrokuen Garden is one of Japan’s best landscaped gardens. It’s as famous for its stunning grounds and traditional Japanese gardens as it is for its cherry blossoms.

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

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

The castle and gardens are open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. from March to October 15 and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from October 16 to February.

Hirosaki Castle

On the northern tip of Honshu, Hirosaki Castle is one of the best sakura viewing spots in the country and is perfect for those looking to enjoy late-blooming blossoms.

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

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

The castle is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. during cherry blossom season.

Himeji Castle

With its pristine exteriors and picture-perfect grounds, Himeji Castle is the epitome of Japanese aesthetics, as well as one of the 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 an iconic Japanese landmark.

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 on the immaculate grounds. The sea of pink petals set against the castle’s white walls is possibly one of the most beautiful settings in which to view the sakura.

The castle is open from 9 a.m. to 4 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 grow on Japan’s highest volcano site. Various spots 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 during 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 hanami season, you will be rewarded with some of the most amazing views Japan offers on and around Mount Fuji.

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 trees is as beautiful as the next.

Here are the 10 most popular types of trees you are likely to see during hanami.

Yamazakura

This is Japan’s most common variety of cherry trees. It grows wild in some parts of the country. The light pink blossoms have delicate petals, and the leaves develop at the same time as the flowers, giving the tree a fresh, floral feel. Yamazakura trees tend to last a long time, with trunks growing as large as 3 feet in diameter when older.

Somei-Yoshino

Cultivated many centuries ago, the somei-yoshino is one of Japan’s most common cherry trees. With delicate light pink, almost white, petals and pretty, 5-petal blossoms, the somei-yoshino creates a blanket of color during the hanami season.

Shidarezakura

As one of Japan’s most iconic cherry trees, 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 with more than 5 petals.

Kikuzakura

This late-blooming blossom usually appears between late April and early May, making it one of the last to visit during hanami season. It is also one of the most densely covered trees, with over 100 petals per bloom, giving the kikuzakura the look and feel of a cloud of soft pink petals.

Kanhizakura

With unique, bell-shaped petals, the kanhizakura is one of the most beloved cherry blossoms the world over. Early-blooming and stunning, 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 doesn’t even start to flower until mid-April, when it produces green leaves and soft, pink petals. Quite commonplace 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 spring bloomers. The blossoms can be seen from early April onward. The densely clustered petals are so pale that they appear almost white. The name comes from the spring equinox, or higan, which represents the time they bloom.

Ukon

Offering a break from the traditional pink blossoms in Japan, the ukon starts to bloom in mid-April and captures viewers’ attention with its copper-colored leaves and creamy-yellow petals.

Fugenzo

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

Shogetsu

One of the prettiest cherry trees, the shogetsu tree is a classic sakura beauty, with pretty, pale, pink flowers and green leaves. The tree itself spreads gracefully to create a sea of color, and the semidouble 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 check the weather forecast before you travel. As a general rule, though, springtime in Japan is usually a little chilly, with a chance of rain wherever you are.

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

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

Warm and Waterproof Clothing

Dress for the rain and wear or pack a waterproof jacket whenever you go out. Northern parts of the country can see temperatures dip below freezing at night, so layers are your friend. You may even want to consider thermal base layers when it’s really cold.

For hanami, you’ll be outside in the open, so comfortable, temperature-appropriate clothing should take priority over looking like a style icon. Be ready to wrap up as the sun sets.

Waterproof or Water-Resistant Walking Boots

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

Boots are better than shoes, as they’re better at preventing water from splashing in and soaking your feet. Walking around parks, tourist attractions, and open spaces can make it tricky to avoid puddles if it has been raining.

Umbrellas and Waterproof Covers

Even a fine drizzle can eventually soak you through, 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 make sure that the umbrella is big enough to cover you completely 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 protect items like your travel camera.

Final Thoughts

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

When you’re ready to book travel, review 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.

What month is cherry blossom season in Japan?

When cherry trees blossom depends on various factors such as geography 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 blossoming happens toward the end of March and into April.

How is hanami celebrated?

Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing and their related celebrations, happens 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.

Where in Japan is best for cherry blossoms?

Wherever you are in Japan, you can find many great places to view the blossoms. We’ve highlighted the a few of best places to see them in this article.

Can you touch cherry blossoms in Japan?

Cherry blossom trees are best admired with your eyes and not your hands. Be careful where you lay your picnic blanket, as the roots are delicate, and treat the trees with the respect they deserve.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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