Japanese cherry blossoms, or sakura as they’re called in Japanese, are known around the world for their beauty. Typically only lasting a few weeks in March or April, they can be tricky to view if you’re traveling from overseas and need to pin down travel plans. But, with the help of weather forecasts, you can typically expect to see at least some cherry blossoms no matter how early you have to plan your trips. Night cherry blossoms in Tokyo are a different way to experience the Japanese sakura. With illuminated blossoms and night festivals and events, this will be a memorable experience.
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When is cherry blossom season in Japan?
Sakura season is typically from late March to mid-April. It varies each year depending on weather conditions so it’s important to check the forecasts that come from the Japanese Meteorological Agency like ours Here. It also depends on the location in Japan. The blooms typically open first in the southern region, and the blooming progresses northward. So it’s possible to catch peak bloom in a few different regions of Japan if you’re willing to travel.
Why is cherry blossom season so important in Japan?
Viewing cherry blossoms has been a national pastime since the 8th century. There are many species of cherry, some of which have been cultivated through cross-breeding. These efforts took off in the 14th century when they became cultivated as ornamental flowers.
But why is Japan so fascinated with the sakura phenomenon since centuries ago? Cherry blossom trees have many meanings to the Japanese. A lot has to do with the very brief life of the flowers, blooming only for about a week to ten days.
Their fleeting beauty illustrates all too perfectly that nothing in this world is permanent, everything passes away at some point. A sad but beautiful admiration for this impermanence has been an important part of the Japanese mindset since ancient times. In Japanese, it’s called “mono no aware.” This mindset can be found in the smallest things of Japanese daily life.
Best Ways to Enjoy the Blossoms
While you can definitely stroll through a park to enjoy the cherry blossoms, there are other ways you can get into the spirit of spring. Here are some typical things you can do to enjoy the cherry blossoms in Japan:
Hanami: This means “flower viewing” and is a great Japanese tradition of having a picnic under the sakura and enjoying the blossoms. Bring a tarp to sit on, snacks and drinks. But make sure you check that the park allows hanami or you’ll be disappointed.
Sakura Festivals: These cherry blossom festivals provide food stalls, pretty lanterns, and even entertainment. They are held around peak blossom season and they are a perfect way to view the blossoms and enjoy the spring weather.
Yozakura: This refers to cherry blossoms that are illuminated at night. They offer a different take on the cherry blossom-viewing experience.
Hikes: The best chance of seeing some quiet cherry blossoms in their natural habitat is to head out into the mountains for a spring walk. Pack a picnic and it’s the best way to welcome spring.
Differences between cherry, plum, and peach blossoms.
The cherry blossom (sakura) may at times be confused with the plum blossoms (ume) or peach blossoms (momo). Plum blossom spots in Japan tend to bloom earlier in the season – from mid-February to mid-March – while the cherry blossom season peaks in April. Peach blossoms bloom around the same time as cherry blossoms but have a very sweet smell. All trees produce flowers ranging in color from white to pink, to red but can be easily identified in the following steps:
Petals and Growing pattern
- Cherry flowers have a small split or notch in each petal; plums and peaches do not.
- Plum flowers have round tips, peach has pointed petals.
- Cherry blossoms produce multiple flowers per bud, while plums produce only one and peaches have only 2.
- New cherry leaves are green in color, while plum tree leaves emerge with a purple or red hue.
Colors and Scents
Plum: Flower colors can be broadly divided into white and crimson, though complex color differences can occur between them. For example, some buds turn pink when they bloom, and some buds turn white. Some buds have a pale pistil, and only the petals are red. They have a sweet, gentle scent similar to jasmine.
Peach: Flowers can be white, pink, or red. The color varies by type and individual plant. Different colored flowers might even grow on one tree! The scent is sweet and mild, which you can smell from both the flowers and the leaves.
Cherry Blossom: Can be white, light pink, or dark pink, depending on the type and individual plant. The cherry blossom scent is usually very mild, and Yoshino cherry trees are particularly faint, barely noticeable even if you bring your nose close. While there are more fragrant varieties with stronger scents, you won’t usually see them around town.
Why See Cherry Blossoms at Night?
Japan can’t get enough of its iconic sakura (cherry blossoms)—they don’t just view them during the daytime, but also at night! They even have a term for cherry blossoms at night: yozakura. The lanterns or lights may be simple, just enough for the flowers to be seen in the dark, or fancy enough for the blossoms to give off an ethereal glow. Some places even have enough space for picnics and may have food stalls for a festival-like atmosphere. So why don’t you bring your camera and head to these places—listed in no particular order—in Tokyo from late March to mid-April?
Best Places to See Night Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo
Chidorigafuchi, a road that runs along the west side of the Imperial Palace, is home to an assortment of cherry trees that truly speak to the Japanese spirit, with the trees accented by the freshly sprung greenery and the palace’s moat. Though there are a number of skyscrapers located in the distance, these shouldn’t detract from the cherry blossom viewing experience. The trees are illuminated mystically at night during the full-bloom season. The popular boat ride is also available at night till 8 pm.
No article on cherry blossom viewing spots in Tokyo would be complete without Ueno Park. During the hanami season, the park is visited by thousands of families, company workers, and students all looking to take in the beautiful pink blossoms. The vibrant Hanami party vibes continue till evening in the park with the light-up and it’s one of most crowded cherry blossom spots in Tokyo.
Read Also: Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo
Meguro River is flanked by around 800 cherry trees on both sides, stretching for about 3.8 km. Like in Shinjuku Gyoen and Yoyogi Park, it’s a little difficult to find a nice plot to set your tarp down, but the blossoms are just as beautiful if you want to simply take a stroll down by the river.
The view gets even more romantic at night as trees are lightened up by charming paper lanterns. The area offers great options for dining as there are a number of cafes, bars, and restaurants located along the river. The light-up is available from 6pm to 9pm in late March to early April.
Location: Nakameguro, Meguro City, Tokyo 153-0061
Rikugien (六義園) is a beautiful Japanese garden located in northern Tokyo. The garden is best known for its massive 15m tall x 20m across Shidarezakura (weeping cherry tree) which is illuminated magically at night. The garden is open from 9 am and the light up starts after sunset till 9 pm during cherry blossom season.
Two modern city complex sites, Tokyo Midtown (東京ミッドタウン) and Roppongi Hills (六本木ヒルズ) are both located in Roppongi area and within a short distance to each other. Both complexes houses amazing cherry blossom viewing spots surrounded by nature and modern skyscrapers as well as light-ups at night. There are also several restaurants where guests can dine with amazing views of cherry blossoms at sites. They are both highly recommended for those who want to enjoy shopping and dining along with cherry blossom viewing!
Located a short walk away from Asakusa Station is Sumida Park along the Sumida River, renowned as an excellent cherry blossom viewing spot.
Though strolling along the river, viewing the gorgeous cherry trees as their blossoms scatter into the Sumida River is a sight to behold in its own right, we also recommend chartering a pleasure boat where you can view the trees from the river itself. Tokyo Skytree is also close by, affording a view of both the old and the new. The trees are lit up at night and the Tokyo Skytree is also illuminated at night in various colors, so I highly recommend you this place for nighttime photography.
Cherry Blossoms are one of Japan’s most sought-after tourist attractions. With their beauty and limited appearance, it’s not hard to see why so many people love them. Hopefully, this guide has given you some ideas of where you want to travel to see the sakura in Japan and how to do it. Let us know in the comments below what your favorite night viewing spot in Tokyo.
Traveling to Japan in Spring
Spring can be an amazing time to travel to Japan. With cool weather that hasn’t yet turned humid, beautiful clear skies, and of course the allure of cherry blossoms, it’s many people’s favorite time to visit the islands. Here are some of our resources for traveling to Japan in the springtime.
Japan Hotels Japan Rail Pass Cherry Blossom Tours
- Packing List for Spring in Japan
- What to do in Japan in Spring
- Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan
- Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo
- Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto
- Where to See Cherry Blossoms Around Mt. Fuji
- Best Cherry Blossom Festivals in Japan
- Best Spring Hikes in Japan for Cherry Blossoms
- Cherry Blossom Photography Tips
Are you ready for Japan?
- Book Your Flights– To find the cheapest flights, flexibility is a must. Some great options are Google Flights for the calendars to find the cheapest options, Skiplagged, and Skyscanner. For more options see our resources page. For Japan, check flights for both Tokyo Airports (Haneda and Narita), as well as Osaka (Kansai).
- Find Transportation- Buy your JR Pass for your bullet train and inter-city travel before you leave home. Research a Suica card, the public transportation card you can either buy before or as soon as you arrive.
- Book Your Accommodation– Look at Booking.com, Hotels.com, or Expedia for hotels in Japan. You can also look at AirBnB or VRBO as we’ve had great luck finding inexpensive, large, and clean homes to rent.
- Book Tours and Experiences- Check Klook or Viator for some of the best tours and attractions for a great price for experiences like Tokyo Skytree, TeamLab Borderless, and Universal Osaka. For Tokyo Disney Resort, check my guide here.
- Stay Connected– Order a pocket WIFI for airport pickup if you’re with a family or group, or order a SIM card just for your phone. Check out our guide to staying connected here.
- Buy Travel Insurance- I always recommend World Nomads for insurance. It’s better to protect yourself in case of mishaps. Learn more about World Nomads in this FAQ post.
- Pack Your Bags– Check out my packing lists, or my favorite travel gear to help you remember all of the essentials.
- Learn About Japan– Learn about Japan with guidebooks like Lonely Planet, or, shameless plug, search around my site for more info.
THIS ARTICLE MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. PLEASE READ THE DISCLAIMER FOR MORE INFO