There are few experiences which can rival the romantic notion of walking along tranquil Japanese gardens as pretty sakura petals bloom above you, or joining the hordes of locals having a picnic under large pink canopies for hanami (flower viewing) and a sip of Japanese beer.
Yet, planning a cherry blossom holiday can be tricky. Firstly, the exact timing vary from year to year. Adding to that, cherry blossom season is a very short affair. It takes only one week from the first opening of the petal to full bloom, and another week before they fall off. Climate factors can sometimes cut the season even shorter!
[Image Credit: Tatters ❀]
Table of Content
>>> When is the Best Time to See Sakura in Japan?
>>> Where are the Best Spots to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan?
>>> Top 5 Best Cherry Blossom Spots in Japan
>>> Cherry Blossom Tours in Japan
When is the Best Time to See Sakura in Japan?
Generally speaking, cherry blossoms occur during spring season. The timing can vary depending on the climate and the geographical region the climate corresponds to.
In most major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, cherry blossom takes place between late March to early April. However, on Japan’s sub-tropical points like Okinawa, sakura can arrive as early as January; while places as far north as Hokkaido will have to wait until around May to join the celebration.
However, it is important to note that cherry blossoms timing vary from year to year, and it is difficult to accurately predict the blossoming of sakura until a month before its actual arrival. To maximize your chance, check out the Japan National Tourism Organization’s sakura forecast regularly as you plan your Japan vacation.
Where are the Best Spots to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan?
Here is a table summarizing the historical average times for the different Japanese regions and the best spots within each region. Remember that the timing can vary from year to year, so always cross-check with the sakura forecast one month before your departure!
Top 5 Best Cherry Blossom Spots in Japan
1. Mount Yoshino at Yoshino, Nara Prefecture (early to mid April)
For many centuries, Yoshinoyama is regarded as the very best hanami site. As you hike along many UNESCO-listed shrines and temples to the top, you’ll be greeted with a viewpoint of 30,000 cherry blossoms in full view.
2. Shinjuku Gyoen at Tokyo, Tokyo Prefecture (late March)
This park is home to thousands of over a dozen varieties of cherry trees, including early and late blooming types, which makes it a nearly-guaranteed sakura viewing spot!
3. Philosopher’s Path at Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture (early April)
This two-kilometer long canal is dotted with thousands of floral which explodes with colors during springtime, which in itself is unbelievably beautiful. But with the additional touch of hundreds cherry trees, this is without a doubt the most romantic walk in all of Japan.
4. Chureito Pagoda at Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture (mid April)
Mount Fuji, towering red pagoda and a sea of blooming sakuras serve as stunning backdrop to capture images which are unmistakably Japan. Best visited during early morning as Mount Fuji can be shrouded with clouds after noon.
For culture and history buffs:
5. Himeji Castle at Himeji, Hyōgo Prefecture (early April)
The imposing Himeji is Japan’s largest, most well-preserved and best castle. If you would like a taste of how cherry blossom viewing must have felt like during the medieval era Japan, this is an excellent combo.
Cherry Blossom Tours in Japan
- From Tokyo: Tokyo Cherry Blossoms Tour
- From Tokyo: Mt. Fuji Kawaguchiko Sakura Festival 2017
- From Nagoya: Takato Cherry Blossoms & Narai-juku of Nakasendo Tour
Also, traveling without internet can be a pain sometimes. So make sure you arrange to have 4G WiFi picked up as soon as you arrive in Japan airport!
What are your favorite cherry blossom spots?