Cherry Blossom Viewing: Planning the Perfect Trip for Sakura Season 2024
Cherry blossom is synonymous with Japan! And rightfully so. Travellers (local and foreigners alike) flock to Japan during the Sakura (cherry blossom) season. It wasn’t any different for me. Even though I’d have liked skiing or diving in Japan, I wanted my first visit to Japan to be all about cherry blossom viewing and Sakura festivals.
But during my planning stage there was also that element of worry, would I be able to witness the cherry blossom in full bloom? I didn’t want to settle for a tree or two. I wished to go all out. And so I did!
In this blog about cherry blossom viewing, I’ll answer all the questions I had while planning my Japan trip and all the questions I get while planning trips for my clients. Let’s dive in to read my cherry blossom viewing guide.
What month is the cherry blossom in Japan?
The cherry blossom or sakura typically blooms in the spring season. The exact month can vary depending on the region and the specific weather conditions of the year. Generally, the cherry blossom season begins in late March and extends through early May.
If you are in the mood for an early cherry blossom viewing head to Kawazu town in the south of Tokyo. The cherry tree here is of a different kind called Kawazu-zakura. This tree blossoms a month before the rest of the Sakura trees. Which also gives an indication of when the rest of the blossoms may bloom.
When was Japan’s cherry blossom season in 2023?
During my 2 weeks in Japan, I visited the golden triangle and closely monitored the cherry blossoms forecast. Here are the dates on which they started blossoming in the most popular tourist areas. In most cases, the cherry blossom for 2024 would be around these dates.
|Full Bloom Date
When is the best time to visit Japan for cherry blossoms in 2024?
To determine the best time to visit Japan for cherry blossoms in 2024, it is essential to consider the bloom forecast and the specific region you plan to visit. While it is challenging to predict exact dates years in advance, the cherry blossom season typically follows a similar pattern each year.
Based on historical trends, it is advisable to plan your visit between late March and early April for central regions like Tokyo and Kyoto. However, for northern areas such as Hokkaido, the bloom may occur slightly later, typically in late April or early May. For an early bloom visit either Kawazu or Atami.
Why is cherry blossom so important in Japan?
The cherry blossom, or sakura as the locals call it, holds immense importance in Japanese culture. It’s not just about the stunning pink blooms that blanket the country every spring, but also the deeper symbolism they represent. You see, cherry blossoms are seen as a powerful reminder of the beauty and transience of life. The short-lived nature of these delicate flowers serves as a metaphor for the fleeting moments we cherish.
The arrival of cherry blossoms marks the start of spring, bringing a sense of hope, renewal, and new beginnings after the long winter. It’s a time when friends and families come together for hanami, the traditional cherry blossom viewing party, to appreciate the beauty, share laughter, and create cherished memories.
So, you can imagine why cherry blossoms hold such a special place in the hearts of the Japanese people and why it’s an absolute must-see when visiting Japan. During this time everything is about Sakura. You’ll find Sakura merchandise, Sakura-flavoured food & drinks and the best Sakura souvenirs.
Where is the best place to see the cherry blossoms in Japan?
Best places for cherry blossom viewing in Tokyo
- Ueno Park: Ueno Park is not only renowned for its cherry blossoms but also offers a rich cultural experience. With over 1,000 cherry trees, the park transforms into a vibrant pink paradise during the Sakura season. Besides enjoying hanami picnics, visitors can explore the Tokyo National Museum, Ueno Zoo, and the beautiful Shinobazu Pond within the park’s grounds.
- Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden: This expansive garden is a haven of tranquillity amidst the bustling city. Its diverse collection of cherry trees, including early and late blooming varieties, ensures an extended period of Sakura viewing. You can take leisurely walks, relax in traditional tea houses, or participate in cultural events held within the garden.
- Chidorigafuchi Moat: Located near the Imperial Palace, Chidorigafuchi Moat offers a unique cherry blossom experience. Renting a rowboat and gliding along the calm waters, surrounded by cascading cherry blossoms, creates a serene and romantic atmosphere. Additionally, explore the nearby Hibiya Park and enjoy local delicacies at the surrounding street food stalls.
- Meguro River: Meguro River is famous for its Sakura tunnel. The riverside path is lined with numerous cherry trees, forming an enchanting canopy of blossoms. Illuminated at night, the scene becomes even more magical.
Best places for cherry blossom viewing in Sapporo
- Odori Park: Odori Park, located in the heart of Sapporo, offers a stunning Sakura display amidst a lively urban atmosphere. Spanning over a kilometre, the park showcases more than 1,000 cherry trees. In addition to hanami picnics, explore nearby landmarks like the Sapporo TV Tower and enjoy delicious Hokkaido specialities at the food stalls during the Sapporo Lilac Festival.
- Maruyama Park: Maruyama Park is a popular spot for both cherry blossom viewing and hanami parties. The park features a remarkable weeping cherry tree that becomes the centrepiece of attention during the blooming season. Immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere, savour local street food, and visit the iconic Hokkaido Shrine located within the park.
Best places for cherry blossom viewing in Kanazawa
- Kenrokuen Garden: Considered one of Japan’s most exquisite gardens, Kenrokuen Garden offers a truly enchanting Sakura experience. With meticulously designed landscapes and a vast collection of cherry trees, visitors can marvel at the beauty of the blooms. Exploring the garden’s teahouses, ponds, and unique stone bridges adds to the allure of this exceptional spot.
- Kanazawa Castle Park: The historic Kanazawa Castle Park provides a picturesque setting for Sakura viewing. The cherry trees surrounding the castle and moats create a captivating sight. Explore the reconstructed castle buildings, enjoy traditional tea ceremonies, and appreciate the craftsmanship of Kanazawa’s samurai culture.
Best places for cherry blossom viewing in Kyoto
- Philosopher’s Path: The Philosopher’s Path is a scenic canal-side walkway lined with hundreds of cherry trees. This serene and meditative path is particularly enchanting during early morning or late afternoon when the sunlight filters through the branches, casting a magical glow. Along the way discover quaint temples, charming cafes, and artisan shops.
- Arashiyama Bamboo Grove: While famous for its bamboo grove, Arashiyama also offers a unique cherry blossom experience. The combination of towering bamboo and delicate sakura creates a breathtaking contrast.
- Kiyomizu-Dera Temple: Kiyomizu-dera Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Kyoto’s most iconic landmarks. The temple’s vast wooden veranda offers breathtaking views of the city and is surrounded by cherry trees. It’s a remarkable spot to appreciate the blossoms while immersing oneself in the rich history and culture of Kyoto.
- Heian Shrine: Heian Shrine is famous for its massive torii gate and vibrant vermilion buildings. During the cherry blossom season, the shrine’s expansive gardens come alive with sakura blooms. Here you can take part in traditional tea ceremonies and even dress in kimono for a more authentic experience.
Best places for cherry blossom viewing in Osaka
- Osaka Castle Park: Osaka Castle Park is an iconic spot for cherry blossom viewing, boasting over 4,000 cherry trees that transform the park into a sea of pink.
- Osaka Mint Bureau: The Osaka Mint Bureau opens its gates for a limited time during the Sakura season, allowing visitors to admire the breathtaking cherry blossoms. The bureau’s cherry tree collection showcases rare and unique varieties, making it a must-visit destination for cherry blossom enthusiasts.
- Osaka Expo ’70 Commemorative Park: This park was built for the 1970 World Expo and has since become a popular destination for cherry blossom viewing. With its vast open spaces, tranquil ponds, and abundant cherry trees, it offers a peaceful and scenic setting for hanami picnics and leisurely walks.
- Osaka Nishinomaru Garden: Located within Osaka Castle Park, Nishinomaru Garden is a hidden gem for Sakura enthusiasts. The garden features over 300 cherry trees, creating a picturesque atmosphere during the cherry blossom season.
Best places for cherry blossom viewing in Hiroshima
- Peace Memorial Park: Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park holds deep historical significance, and during cherry blossom season, it offers a poignant backdrop for Sakura viewing. The cherry trees symbolize hope and renewal, making it a meaningful and reflective experience. Explore the Peace Memorial Museum, visit the iconic Atomic Bomb Dome, and reflect on the various memorials within the park.
- Shukkei-en Garden: Shukkei-en Garden is a hidden gem in Hiroshima, offering a serene oasis with beautifully landscaped gardens and cherry blossoms. The garden’s traditional teahouse and tranquil pond provide a peaceful ambience to appreciate the blooms and enjoy a traditional tea ceremony.
Best places for cherry blossom viewing in Fukuoka
- Maizuru Park: Maizuru Park, located around Fukuoka Castle ruins, is a popular cherry blossom spot. The park is home to around 1,000 cherry trees, creating a breathtaking sight during spring. Visitors can explore the historic castle remains, visit nearby museums, and savour local delicacies at the food stalls.
- Nishi Park: Nishi Park offers a tranquil and scenic spot for cherry blossom viewing. With a variety of cherry tree species, visitors can enjoy different shades of pink. The park also offers panoramic views of Fukuoka city and is an excellent place for a peaceful stroll or a relaxing picnic.
- Ohori Park: Ohori Park is a spacious park surrounding a large central pond, offering a peaceful retreat in the heart of Fukuoka. The park features a variety of cherry trees, creating a mesmerizing spectacle during the spring season. You can rent rowboats, relax in designated picnic areas, and explore the park’s Japanese garden and historical landmarks.
- Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine: Located on the outskirts of Fukuoka, Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine is a renowned cultural and historical site. The shrine’s grounds are adorned with cherry trees, offering a tranquil setting for Sakura viewing. Stroll through the surrounding gardens, and enjoy traditional Japanese sweets in nearby cafes.
When to start planning your spring trip to Japan?
When visiting Japan in spring it is good to plan at least one month in advance. Cherry blossom viewing is one of the busiest times for tourism in Japan. And most tour activities are likely to be sold out if you rely on last-minute planning.
I recommend booking your Mt. Fuji trip, team lab botanical garden Osaka and team lab Tokyo museum tickets in advance. The good thing is the parks and castles don’t require pre-booking, so you can keep that flexible.
While there are a lot of accommodation options, if you are looking to stay in a particular area book them a month in advance. This is also the time when accommodation rates are higher than usual and your over all cost of travelling to Japan can shoot up!
How long does the cherry blossom season last in Japan?
The cherry blossom season in Japan typically lasts for a few weeks, although the full bloom period is relatively short. After the first buds appear, it takes approximately one week for the cherry blossoms to reach peak bloom, when they are at their most vibrant and picturesque.
The peak bloom may last for about a week, and as the petals start to fall, the season gradually comes to an end.
What are some tips for photographing cherry blossoms in Japan?
Photographing cherry blossoms can be a delightful and rewarding experience. To capture the beauty of these delicate blooms, consider the following tips:
- Golden Hour Magic: Shoot during the golden hours of sunrise or sunset for soft, warm light that enhances the colours of the blossoms.
- Macro Magic: Get up close and personal with macro photography to capture intricate details and the texture of cherry blossoms.
- Compose with Care: Experiment with different angles and perspectives, such as shooting from below or incorporating nearby structures for unique compositions.
- Play with Depth: Utilize a wide aperture to create a shallow depth of field and make the blossoms stand out against a dreamy, blurred background.
- Add a Human Element: Include people in your photos to add a sense of scale and capture the joy and wonder of experiencing cherry blossoms in Japan.
What are the traditional customs associated with hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in Japan?
Hanami, the tradition of cherry blossom viewing, is deeply rooted in Japanese culture. I took part in a number of customs that happened across Japan. And would urge you to slot in a few in your Japan itinerary. To fully embrace the experience, consider these traditional customs:
- Picnicking under the Blossoms: Many people gather with family and friends for hanami parties, spreading picnic blankets beneath the cherry trees and enjoying food and drinks amidst the blossoms.
- Sakura Appreciation: Take the time to appreciate the beauty of the blossoms, contemplating their ephemeral nature and reflecting on the fleeting moments of life.
- Poetry and Music: Engage in the tradition of composing and reciting haiku or tanka poetry inspired by the cherry blossoms. Some even bring instruments to play music beneath the trees.
- Dressing in Traditional Attire: For a more immersive experience, consider wearing a yukata (a light, summer kimono) or other traditional clothing while partaking in hanami festivities.
- Nighttime Illuminations: In some locations, cherry blossoms are illuminated at night, creating a magical ambience. Stroll through these illuminated paths to witness the blossoms in a different light.
Before my trip, I thought I’d love to visit Japan during the Cherry blossom season at least once! But honestly, I’d love to go back! I really hope my blog helped you plan your Japan trip. If you have any questions feel free to contact me.