Sakura or cherry blossom season, is one of the most popular times of the year in Japan. Like in many countries, the flower blossoming marks the arrival of warmer weather and the upcoming season is very much embraced by everyone. In this article, I’ll give you an introduction to the expected schedule for the best time and place to see cherry blossoms all around Japan in 2023.
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When is the best time to see cherry blossoms in Japan?
Cherry blossoms usually bloom between mid-March and early May. In 2023, cherry blossoms are expected to open around March 18 in Tokyo.
In 2022, Tokyo’s cherry blossom season officially began on March 24, when flowers opened on a Somei-Yoshino cherry tree at Yasukuni Shrine.
While the dates change somewhat from year to year, there are areas in which cherry blossoms bloom even earlier!
One is the town of Kawazu, which is about 3 hours south of Tokyo along the Izu Peninsula coast. Kawazu is known for a unique variety of cherry tree, known as Kawazu-zakura, which blooms around a month earlier than typical blossoms.
Another area is in the city of Atami, roughly 90 minutes south of Tokyo, where Atami-zakura bloom along a peaceful stream. These, too, bloom approximately a month earlier than typical Japanese cherry blossom.
Cherry blossoms in Japan bloom for about a week. But if you can’t make peak bloom, fear not: you can also see late-blooming cherry blossoms in colder regions as well, through April.
Also, know that “peak bloom” does not mean that the trees immediately shed their blossoms – you will still be able to enjoy them for about a two-week window.
Read Also: Spring Packing List for Japan
When is Japan’s cherry blossom season expected in 2023?
The dates below are according to the Japan Meteorological Corporation’s official cherry blossom forecast as of January 12, 2023.
The forecast is based on various factors, including temperature lows in autumn and winter, and past area data.
In 2021, many of the cherry blossom viewing events and festivals were canceled or scaled back due to Covid-19. It is expected that a similar pattern may happen in 2023.
- Fukuoka Flowering: March 21 / Full bloom: March 31
- Hiroshima Flowering: March 24 / Full bloom: April 3
- Kanazawa Flowering: March 30 / Full bloom: April 5
- Tokyo Flowering: March 18 / Full bloom: March 25
- Nagoya Flowering: March 21 / Full bloom: April 1
- Kyoto Flowering: March 23 / Full bloom: April 2
- Osaka Flowering: March 25 / Full bloom: April 2
- Sendai Flowering: April 3 / Full bloom: April 8
- Sapporo Flowering: April 28 / Full bloom: May 1
Where is the best place to see the cherry blossoms in Japan?
Japanese cherry blossom hotspots can be found in over 1,000 locations across the country, so choosing just one best place is tough. We’ve found it easier to come up with our sample of stunning spots by region
In the colder areas of Northern Japan, cherry blossom season typically occurs later than in the rest of the country. Sakura in Sendai in the Tohoku region were forecast to open at the end of March.
The last cherry blossoms in Japan to open are expected to be in Hokkaido toward the end of April.
Here are the top five places in Japan:
Goryokaku Tower and Fort Goryaku
A star-shaped fort with the first French-style fortifications in Hakodate Japan. Goryokaku was designated as a national special historic site and the surrounding park is known for its famous cherry blossoms. The 107m-high Goryokaku Tower adjacent to the park is a spot where you can marvel at a unique view of the gorgeous Hokkaido cherry blossoms from above.
In Tokyo, about 800 cherry trees blossom along Megurogawa which stretches for about 3.8 kilometers. While there are no parks here, you can enjoy cherry blossom viewing while having drinks and meals in the cafes and restaurants along the river.
Also Read: Where to See Night Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo
One of the most popular spots in Tokyo, and one where trees tend to bloom, is Ueno Park, home to over 1,000 cherry blossom trees, as well as plenty of museums, shrines, and ponds. A 4km stretch is illuminated from 5 pm to 9 pm (from about March 23 to April 10). Graze as you go, on noodles and sticky rice balls from food stalls.
Possibly the prettiest spot for cherry blossom viewing, this ancient three-story castle is surrounded by a fortified moat and a huge tree-lined park that hosts illuminations in the evenings.
Come sakura season and this is probably Japan’s most famous cherry-bloom destination, where a carpet of blushing blooms cascade the mountainsides.
Further Reading: Best Hikes to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan
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 where 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.
Does Japan have cherry blossom festivals?
The act of appreciating cherry blossoms is called “hanami” – literally “flower viewing.” These outdoor parties are carefully planned, as the cherry blossom season doesn’t last very long – once they start blooming they only last up to a few weeks.
Many people rely on the blossom forecast known as the “sakura-zensen.” Across Japan, sakura trees blossom at different times. Generally, the first flowers to open are in the southwest, where temperatures are typically warmer, while the last sakura to bloom are in the colder northern areas.
Throughout sakura season, particularly on weekends, parks and streets covered in cherry blossom trees get completely filled with people having their annual hanami picnic.
Hanami can last an entire day and even into the evening, as viewing “yozakura,” or “night sakura,” is very popular as well, with many places offering illuminated sakura trees.
Further Reading: Cherry Blossom Festivals in Japan
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 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. See our list of Cherry Blossom Festivals in Japan.
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. See the Best Hikes for Cherry Blossoms in Japan.
Can I join hanami events in Japan?
Yes, visitors are welcome to join in and appreciate the sakura magic! Some basic items will be needed in advance. First, you’ll want a waterproof tarp or picnic blanket, which can often be found at a 100 yen shop. (A large plastic garbage bag will suffice as well.) Next, pick up some of your favorite beverages at a convenience store or supermarket – and some sakura-themed bentos or other foods as well. Wet wipes, chopsticks, and a garbage bag are also helpful. Don’t forget to bring your camera and some warmer clothes for when night falls: it can still be brisk in early spring!
Also, while it might still be a little chilly outside, for an outstanding daytime experience, try renting a kimono and strolling around while snapping photos!
Traveling to Japan in Spring
Visiting Japan for the cherry blossoms? Be sure to check out these important links to help make your time even better.
- Japan Hotels
- Japan Rail Pass
- Cherry Blossom Tours
- 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
- 5 Places to See Night Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo
- Cherry Blossom Photography Tips
Japan cherry blossom season is important for so many reasons and it can be a great time to travel to Japan. With Cherry Blossom tours, plenty of viewing spots to watch the blossoms bloom, and many activities that take place in spring, you should really think about booking your trip to Japan during sakura season.
THIS ARTICLE MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ THE DISCLAIMER FOR MORE INFO
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.