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.
One of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of Japanese cherry blossoms are by going on a hike. A relaxing hike through the trees or on a mountain trail can be just what you need on a spring day after a cold winter. Experience the cold, mild weather of spring, get out of the cities, and enjoy the natural beauty.
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Table of Contents
- When is cherry blossom season in Japan?
- Why is cherry blossom season so important in Japan?
- Best Ways to Enjoy the Blossoms
- Differences between cherry, plum, and peach blossoms.
- Best Spring Hikes for Cherry Blossoms in Japan
- Traveling to Japan in Spring
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.
Best Spring Hikes for Cherry Blossoms in Japan
With over 30,000 sakura trees (some of which are over 1,300 years old) spanning this peak in Nara Prefecture, Mount Yoshino (Yoshinoyama) is the spot for cherry blossom viewing in Japan.
The mountain gets extremely crowded during cherry blossom season, but it’s well worth fighting the swarms of people. Arriving early (or staying overnight and waking up at dawn) will give you a more peaceful view of the blossoms before people start to arrive by bus and train.
A trail at the ridge of the mountain is lined with yatai (food stalls), giving the scene a festive flair. For those who’re more active, you can climb to the top of the mountain to take in the views in about three to four hours. But if you’d rather not sweat it, you can take a bus instead! Mount Yoshino can easily be reached from Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, or Nagoya via the Kintetsu Railway.
Read Also: Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto
Miyajima is a fun tourist spot that offers pleasant strolls through nature just outside of Hiroshima. This famous island also boasts some 1,300 cherry trees that bloom in April, making it a particularly picturesque hanami (cherry blossom viewing) spot.
Trails crisscross the island. For the best views, take the Daisho-in course, which takes you to the top of Mount Misen in under two hours. For a slightly more challenging trek, climb to the top of Mount Misen via the Momiji-dani trail that winds through stands of green trees. The Momiji-dani Trail is particularly beautiful during sakura season, as the path stops by the Tahoto Pagoda, which is surrounded by bright pink cherry trees come spring.
Hanamiyama Park near Fukushima City is a sakura wonderland, with a number of meandering paths for all to enjoy.
A visitors’ center in the park provides maps with recommended walking routes. The best are the longest trails, which climb the sakura-speckled slopes. Upon reaching the viewpoint at the top, you can look out over the snow-capped Azuma Mountains as the cherry trees sway in the breeze around you.
Location: 〒960-8141 Fukushima, Watari, Hara−１７
Located at the base of Mount Oyama, Mount Kobo is next to Mount Gongen, and the two can be combined for a slightly longer hike starting from Hadano Station. The route suggested by our trusted advisers at Ridgeline even lands you at Tsurumaki Onsen in time for a soak and to catch the train home!
At 235 meters (771 ft), Mount Kobo (弘法山・Kobo-yama) is a fun day out for hikers of all experience levels. The top of this mountain in Kanagawa is ringed with gorgeous cherry blossoms in the spring, and even offers excellent views of Mount Fuji on clear days.
The cherry blossoms ring the mountain and plenty of trails and picnic areas. In the evening lanterns are used to provide a soft illumination between 6pm – 10pm from late April to Early May. Between Mount Gongen and Mount Kobo is a tunnel of blossoms, and the park itself (Koboyama Park) has over 2000 trees to admire!
Location: Minamiyana, Hadano, Kanagawa 257-0003
Takato Castle Ruins Park
With over 1500 pink Kohigan cherry trees, Takato Castle Park is an iconic and breathtaking place to visit. It is reputedly one of the top three places to see the cherry blossom in Japan and, every April, there is a lively festival with stalls, activities, and evening illuminations. Visitors can also see the historic Takato Castle Ruins and hike the hills surrounding the castle.
The rustic Mt. Takao is another famous spot for cherry blossoms in spring. This Tokyo peak is the ideal option for those looking to enjoy a more rural scene while still being close to the city. Cherry trees line the hiking paths, and there is are mountain temple buildings scattered around the mountainside. From the top, you can get a view of more sakura and, on a clear day, Mt. Fuji. For those who want to go straight to the top, there is a cable car and ropeway that will bring you to the peak.
Please note that Mt. Takao is a popular destination on the weekends. If you visit during the cherry blossom season, try to go on a weekday to avoid crowds.
Read Also: Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo
Located in the city which heartily proclaims to be the best viewing spot of Mount Fuji, this mountain trail boasts two of Japan’s most iconic sights in one.
The trail allows you to visit Iwadono Castle which was built in 1530 and used its excellent vantage point to send and observe smoke signals as part of a network in the area. The castle is small but has a museum inside and the grounds are filled with cherry blossom, so you’ll certainly tick that off your list. It is right next to Maruyama Koen, a great viewing point for Fuji and home to more blossom.
If you continue on up the mountain, there are a variety of trails you can choose from depending on how dedicated of a hiker you are, but the trails are well maintained so you shouldn’t have any issues. The easiest one to find is right behind the castle which is also signposted right the way up to the top. At the summit, you’ll be greeted by a stone monument and more beautiful cherry blossoms!
A mountain with a reputation for weathered rocks, Myogi also has over 5000 cherry trees and is one of the three mountains of Jomo (the original name of Gunma Prefecture). As it is also a very popular spot for autumn leaves and lush greenery in summer, it’s rare to find it quiet, but the views are worth it. This is one for the more confident hiker though, as most of the routes on Mount Myogi involve using ropes or chains to climb steep or narrow paths, and are expert level so keep that in mind. The easiest route is from Taruwaki Valley to Soma-dake, and the most challenging is the Hakuunsan route but generally, most people opt for the Sekimon Meguri course.
To the southwest of the mountain is Sakura-no-Sato Prefectural Forest Park, home to the promised 5000 cherry trees and numerous picnic spots. They bloom later than Tokyo though, so head up between April to mid-May.
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 cherry blossom viewing hike is.
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
- Spring Packing List for 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
- 5 Places to See Night Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo
- 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