Mention cherry blossoms and the first thing that comes to mind would probably be the vision of a sea of vibrant pink sakura blossoms in Japan during springtime or hanami. Come spring each year, thousands flock from all over the world to Japan to soak in the breathtaking sights of the numerous cherry blossom trees in their full bloom.
Fret not if you’ve missed the cherry blossom season this year, there’s always the next to look forward to! And to help you out, here’s a handy-dandy guide on estimated dates of cherry blossom blooming to help plan your next spring vacation to Japan!
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Tokyo: 17 March to 1 April
Ah, Tokyo, the beloved capital of bustling Japan. It’s no surprise that this city is a top favourite amongst locals and tourists alike when hanami season draws near. Just imagine getting even better photos of already beautiful landscapes when you frame countless sakura blossoms in your photographs! A spring holiday to Tokyo will definitely be something you’ll never forget.
Our advice? Pack a picnic bento lunch (you can get them from the countless convenience stores scattered around the city), grab your picnic mat and enjoy your meal with the view at Yoyogi Park or Ueno Park. For those looking for a more Instagram-worthy shot, make a beeline to Meguro River to marvel at the trees bursting with soft fluffy sakura blooms flanking either side of the river. Simply gorgeous!
Best places to view: Tokyo Imperial Palace, Shinjuku Gyo-en, Ueno Park, Meguro River, Yoyogi Park
Kyoto: 22 March to 3 April
What’s there in Kyoto besides the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, you ask? Well, besides being one of Japan’s cultural hotspots, Kyoto is also another crowd favourite when it comes to sakura chasing. Dotted with vibrant imperial temples and shinto shrines, Kyoto just becomes even more gorgeous come spring, when the pale pink flowers grace the temples and its sublime gardens.
For postcard-perfect views, take a stroll through Maruyama Park or down the banks of Kamo River. And to be honest, nearly every pagoda, shrine and temple will look ten times more gorgeous in the spring — so make sure to take out those cameras and make them work hard!
Best places to view: Maruyama Park, Ninna-ji Temple Pagoda, Kamo River, Arashiyama Forest, Hirano Shrine
Fukuoka: 19 March to 2 April
Located on the island of Kyushu, the city of Fukuoka is an underrated gem that many skip over when planning for a holiday to Japan. For those who prefer something less touristy and perhaps with a little less crowd (we can’t promise this, though! People do flock to all parts of Japan to soak in the gorgeous sights), Fukuoka is just the place. Besides boasting a massive shopping mall (Canal City) and other landmarks like the Fukuoka Castle, Fukuoka also has beaches and temples that will transform into even more splendid sights when the sakura flowers bloom.
After taking in the glorious sights of Fukuoka Castle in Maizuru Park, continue your sakura chase as you visit the other parks like Nishi Park and Uminonakamichi Park.
Best places to view: Fukuoka Dam, Fukuoka Castle (Maizuru Park), Uminonakamichi Seaside Park, Nishi Park, Atago Shrine
Osaka: 20 March to 2 April
Besides being an absolute food haven, Osaka has multiple landmarks to cater to all sorts of tourists such as the Osaka Castle for history-lovers and Universal Studios Japan for some family fun. If you’re looking to bring your entire family with you on your sakura hunt, then Osaka is definitely at the top on our list of recommendations.
For top-notch views, a stroll through Osaka Castle Park will not disappoint. Get ready to see cherry blossom trees in full splendour on the castle grounds, and snap that beautiful shot of the iconic castle nestled amongst the clusters of baby pink flowers. The Mint Museum in Osaka is another good place to admire the sakura. It has its own dedicated cherry tree garden that comes to life during the spring. The entry fee to the museum covers entry to the garden too, so you get to learn more about the various coins and medals around Japan before getting to enjoy one of the best sakura views in Osaka!
Best places to view: Osaka Castle, Osaka Castle Park, Expo Commemorative Park, Mint Museum, Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park
Nagoya: 19 March to 2 April
Although it is not as popular as Tokyo or Osaka, Nagoya makes for a pretty sight when spring arrives. As one of Japan’s main industrial centres, you will actually be surprised to find out that there is loads to see and do in this city. From edo-era temples, to shopping arcades and all sorts of art and science museums, Nagoya has it all. And of course, don’t forget the Nagoya Castle, which becomes a truly spectacular sight during the cherry blossom season.
Other notable places to catch the sakura show include Yamazakigawa Riverside where you’ll get to admire the blooming cherry trees and flowering boughs framing a glistening river. A marvellous sight indeed!
Best places to view: Nagoya Castle, Yamazakigawa Riverside, Nagoya Peace Park, Inuyama Castle, Tsuruma Park
Sapporo: 26 April to 3 May
Nestled high up in the mountainous region of Hokkaido lies this gem of a city — Sapporo, which is popular for its annual Sapporo Snow Festival, and of course, the Sapporo Beer Museum.
That aside, did you know that Sapporo gets equally stunning as Tokyo or Kyoto when spring nears? Places like Maruyama Park and Hokkaido Shrine and Odori Park start to fill up with tourists and locals alike, looking for a nice spot to sit down and enjoy the beautiful sight of the flowering cherry trees around the area. How about renting a little boat and rowing it out to enjoy the view from a different perspective? Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it?
Best places to view: Nakajima Park, Moerenuma Park, Maruyama Park, Hokkaido Shrine, Odori Park
Matsumoto: 1 April to 9 April
We aren’t lying when we say that Matsumoto city is one of Japan’s best kept secrets. For those who sorely need to escape the crazy crowds, this is the place to go! Located in the scenic region of Nagano, which is famous for its spectacularly picturesque landscapes such as that of Lake Kamikochi and Mt Hotakadake.
Soak in the hanami season (sans the ridiculous crowd) at Koboyama Park or by the banks of Susuki River. Matsumoto Castle is also another famous spot to hit. Known as the ‘Crow Castle’ due to its black lacquer panelled walls, this area surely makes for a great picture-perfect moment as the sakura flowers seem to embellish the castle during spring.
Best places to view: Matsumoto Castle, Koboyama Park, Mt. Kobo, Susuki River, Alps Park
Nara: 24 March to 3 April
Mention Nara and most people will probably think of the super adorable and friendly deer that roam freely in Nara Park. However when spring rolls in, Nara is so much more than just a cosy animal encounter and feeding session with the deer!
Bask in the sensational floral display from above at the viewing platforms from Mt Yoshino, or simply just visit temples such as the Hase-dera or Butsuryu Temple, which will definitely give you an extra dose of hanami lovin’ for your Instagram feed.
Best places to view: Mt. Yoshino, Nara Park, Himuro Shrine, Hase-dera Temple, Butsuryu-ji Temple
And there you have it! Make sure to plan your holiday to coincide with these timings for the best chance of catching those pretty pink and white flowers in their full splendour!
Good luck and enjoy!
Note: Dates are rough estimates based on the year before. Blooming season ultimately depends on weather conditions and other external factors.