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.
Japan is also known around the world for its cherry blossom festivals. Known as hanami in Japanese, cherry blossom festivals are an important custom and are held all over Japan during the spring. That said, do not expect to see the flowers wherever you go, the trees bloom at different times throughout Japan. If you’re planning a trip to the country in the spring, here’s what you need to know about the hanami tradition.
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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.
- When do Cherry Blossom Festivals Happen in Japan
- What Happens at Sakura Festivals in Japan?
- Best Cherry Blossoms Festivals 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.
When do Cherry Blossom Festivals Happen in Japan
Cherry blossom festivals take place in different regions of the country. Most of them are held from March to May, though other regions organize festivals during January, February, and June, depending on their location. Festival dates are usually determined with reference to cherry blossom forecasts and vary from year to year. The uncertainty makes it more difficult to schedule your trip around a specific festival. But if there’s one celebration you’re particularly eager to attend, you can research the dates of when the festival took place over the past five to 10 years. Take the average of those dates and plan your trip accordingly.
What Happens at Sakura Festivals in Japan?
Gorgeous flowers are the main attraction at the cherry blossom festivals, but there are a variety of traditional Japanese performances presented during these festivals. You might want to consider joining a tea ceremony held under the cherry trees; it can be quite a memorable experience.
It’s also fun to patronize festival vendors who sell various foods and souvenirs, such as regional crafts and specialty food from the region.
Best Cherry Blossoms Festivals in Japan
This park features lush lawns and over a thousand cherry trees. The area is unique in that it is home to both late and early blooming trees. This makes it a prime spot for visitors who arrive a week too early or too late for the main sakura-matsuri festival.
Located in the heart of the city, Tokyo’s high-rise buildings provide a startling contrast to the park’s peaceful natural surroundings. Shinjuku Gyoen is a mere ten-minute walk from Shinjuku Station, one of the central Tokyo train stops, part of the circular Yamanote line. Japan Rail Pass holders can ride all Yamanote line trains with no limits, during the duration of their JR Pass.
March 23 – April 25
Opening hours: 9:00 – 18:00 (entry until 17:30)
Admission: 500 yen (adults) , 250 yen (students and seniors), FREE(children)
Address: 11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0014
*Bringing alcoholic is prohibited.
See Also: Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo
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. Since the park can get crowded during this time of year, we recommend meeting up with your party at Ueno Station rather than in the park itself. The Ueno Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the biggest and most crowded in all of Japan.
Mid March – Early April
Opening hours: 6-9PM
Address: 〒110-0007 Tokyo, Taito City, Uenokoen, 池之端三丁目
Meguro River is flanked by around 800 cherry trees on both sides, stretching for about 3.8 km. At night, lanterns are lit, making for a very atmospheric hanami experience.
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 closest stations for Meguro River are JR Meguro Station or Nakameguro Station on the Tokyu Toyoko Line.
During the main season for cherry blossoms, a cherry blossom festival is held near the river and there will be a lot of stalls selling food and drinks. There are also many cafes and restaurants along the river and some of them have terrace seats where you can enjoy delicious food with the cherry blossoms views. Cherry blossoms at Meguro River can be enjoyed at day and night as the light-up of the cherry blossoms is available till 9 pm during the season.
If you find yourself in Meguro to see the sakura, and are a coffee lover and Starbucks addict, check out the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Tokyo. They also release special Sakura merchandise and drinks at this time of year.
Late March – Mid April
Opening hours: 6-9PM
Address: Nakameguro, Meguro City, Tokyo 153-0061
Home to 2,600 flowering cherry trees, Hirosaki Park is considered one of the best cherry blossom viewing locations in the country. More than a million visitors flood its gates each spring.
The four-hundred-year-old Hirosaki Castle also adds to the uniqueness of this location. Visitors can rent boats and float amid fallen blossoms in the castle’s moat.
The cherry blossoms in Hirosaki Park are lauded as the largest-scaled in Japan. They originate back to 1715, when the Tsugaru clan requisitioned 25 Kasumizakura cherry trees from Kyoto and planted them in the grounds of Hirosaki Castle, present-day Hirosaki Park.
Starting with the Sakura Tunnel (cherry blossom tunnel) on the west moat, the cherry blossoms of Hirosaki Park enchant visitors with a variety of displays throughout the viewing season. Visitors can paddle a small boat to view blossoms reflecting off the moat, come at night to see the trees illuminated, or see the grounds carpeted in falling blossoms.
April 23 – May 5
Opening hours: 9:00 – 21:00 food stalls, 18:30-22:00 Night illuminations
Admission: 320 yen (adults) , 1000 yen (children),
Address: 〒036-8356 Aomori, Hirosaki, Shimoshiroganecho, １
Mitsuike Park in Yokohama has been named one of the “100 Best Cherry Blossom Spots” in Japan. It is home to three ponds and over a thousand cherry trees. Mitsuike means 3 ponds in Japanese, and Mitsuike Park literally has them: Kami-pond, Naka-pond, and Shimo-pond. What you should do there is Hanami (viewing cherry blossoms while drinking and eating) by the ponds. You can also enjoy strolling on the 1.4 km long course along the ponds.
Mid March- Early April
Opening hours: All Day
Address: 1-1 Mitsuikekoen, Tsurumi Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa 230-0013
Satte Gongendo Park
If you’re looking for a good location outside of the city to enjoy hanami (a cherry blossom viewing picnic), look no further than the Satte Sakura Festival in Saitama Prefecture.
The highlight of the Satte Sakura Festival is the 1km long row of cherry blossom trees. Roughly 1000 trees are planted on either side of a small hilltop path, so visitors can both walk and picnic beneath them. To add to the beauty of Satte’s spring scenery, there are several large fields full of yellow rapeseed blossoms adjacent to the cherry blossoms. Combined with the hundreds of vendors selling delicious festival food and drink, there really is no better place to spend a day taking in the sights of spring.
Late March- Early April
Opening hours: All Day
Address: 887番地3 Uchigouma, 幸手市 Saitama 340-0103
Another spectacular castle surrounded by cherry blossom trees is Takada Castle: an estate in the Niigata prefecture two hours northwest of Tokyo. Over one million people make the trip to attend this gathering, and the grounds hold over 4,000 cherry trees. They also light 3,000 lanterns at night (between 6-10pm), which makes this a breathtaking place to take nighttime pictures or just watch the amazing contrast of illuminated flowers, castle, and lanterns.
The grounds are host to a number of special events throughout the season, including the incredibly exciting and hypnotic Japanese taiko drumming, calligraphy presentations and workshops, and traditional dance performances. There are hot and cold sake stalls, takoyaki (squid balls) to try, and the addictive karaage (Japanese fried chicken) is always within an arm’s reach. Souvenir stalls selling masks and toys are dotted throughout the castle grounds, perfect for grabbing a lasting memento of the magical, flower-filled night.
April 1- April 15
Opening hours: 9AM- 10PM
Address: ６-1 Motoshirocho, Joetsu, Niigata 943-0835
Nearly 300 Somei-Yoshino cherry trees are planted at Odawara Castle Park. The trees surrounding the castle ruins were planted over 60 years ago. Once the sun sets, the trees are all lit up, creating a spectacular sight!
Odawara-joshi Park, also called Odawara Castle Park, is located next to the famous onsen area Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture. Originally, the castle was built in the mid 15C. But almost all buildings on the site including the castle keep were demolished and then were completely broken down by the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923 (the castle keep now standing was rebuilt in 1960.)
Late March- Early April
Opening hours: 9AM- 5PM (Castle) 6-10PM (Illuminations)
Admission: Free, 510Yen (Castle entry)
Address: 6 Jonai, Odawara, Kanagawa 250-0014
Izu Highland (Izu Kogen,伊豆高原) is located in Izu Peninsula, Shizuoka prefecture. Izu Peninsula is a popular getaway spot from Tokyo, offering beautiful beaches, hot springs, delicious seafood, and beautiful nature.
Izu Highland is located on the east side of the peninsula and the area is very rich in nature, close to both mountains and beaches. Also, the highland is known for numerous unique museums, attracting millions of visitors every year.
The highland is also one of the most popular spots for the famous cherry blossom viewing, alluring visitors especially with the famous 3 km long Sakura Tunnel. Various kinds of cherry blossoms can be seen in Izu Highland and some of them start blooming in mid-March. The best viewing time for this cherry blossom tunnel is from late March to early April.
In late March, Izu Highland Cherry Blossom Festival (Izu Kogen Sakura Matsuri) is held annually around the site with food stalls and light-up at night. Visitors can enjoy local food and drinks with the splendid view of cherry blossoms!
February 1 – February 28
Opening hours: All Day
Address: 4160-61 Chinto, Hagi, Yamaguchi 758-0011, Japan
It’s difficult to think of anywhere more incredible to see the Japanese cherry blossoms than at Mount Fuji itself. The Fuji Five lakes area is a hugely popular place to visit during this season. The festival is at the north shore of Lake Kawaguchi, and you can stay after sunset to enjoy the illuminated trees and evening festivities.
Here you’ll find the unique sakura onigiri, a rice ball made with salted cherry blossoms, as well as sakura mochi, a sweet and squishy bite-sized dessert. Settling down for a picnic here is a must — the view is so picturesque. And don’t forget to check out this region’s bonus festival: the Fuji Shibazakura, or Pink Moss Festival, that is held just 3km from Lake Motosuko and invites visitors to walk and picnic amongst a blanket of vibrant pink flowers, perfectly contrasting the iconic crisp blue mountain.
April 3 – April 11
Opening hours: 10AM-5PM, Sunset-9PM (illuminations)
Address: Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru District, Yamanashi
Read Also: Where to See Cherry Blossoms near Mt. Fuji
Yodogawa Riverside Park
Walk under a tunnel of blossoms at this beautiful spot south of Kyoto City, where cherry trees line a path that runs along the top of an embankment between the Kizugawa and Ujigawa rivers. About 250 cherry trees line the 1.4-kilometer promenade in the Sewaritei District. Gaze at the petals from spacious lawn areas or from a 25-meter-high viewing post. Go higher still by scaling the nearby cherry tree-covered Mount Otokoyama to visit the Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine.
Late March –Early April 11
Opening hours: 9AM-5PM
Address: 7-6 Sotojimacho, Moriguchi, Osaka 570-0096
Read Also: Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto
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 viewing spot is.
THIS ARTICLE MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. PLEASE READ THE DISCLAIMER FOR MORE INFO
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
- 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 Spring Hikes in Japan for Cherry Blossoms
- 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.