Travel Japan

Beginner’s Guide to Cherry Blossom in Japan

Cherry Blossom (Sakura) season is the one BEST time of the year to travel to Japan. 

Why you ask?

Because places in Japan that you may have been to before look nothing like how it does during this season and it’s not just the big parks and tourist attractions. Every neighborhood, walkway, side street becomes covered in 100 shades of pink and looks like a picturesque scene from a movie. 

There are also many events that happen only during this time period. Both travelers and locals alike gather at the nearest park to celebrate with food, drinks, and festivals. 

Sakura season is such a huge part of traveling to Japan that you don’t want to miss and this guide will show you everything from timing your trip to tips that can help you MAXIMIZE your sakura travel experience!

When is Sakura Season in Japan?

In order to understand when sakura season happens, you first need to understand Japan’s climate. Japan has a gradient of climates, starting from the tropical islands of Okinawa in the south, all the way up to the winter island of Hokkaido in the north.

In the same way, Japan’s cherry blossoms make its first appearance in Okinawa and gradually moves up. Here’s a list of dates when the sakura is predicted to be at full bloom in various cities across Japan.

Once the cherry blossoms go into full bloom in a region, it stays for about 7 to 10 days. Sakura forecasts come out as early as the December of the previous year and constantly updated!

Planning Your Trip to Japan For Sakura Season


The sakura flowers stays in full bloom for roughly one week, so planning your trip to align with the season can be tricky. Here are a couple tips to maximize your chances. 

  • Stay up to date with sakura forecasts. Forecasts for sakura start as early as December, which is enough time to plan your trip 3-5 months ahead. You can find the 2020 sakura forecast updates here.
  • Stay flexible with sakura viewing dates. During this time of the year, Japan has unpredictable rainfalls, so it’s good to keep a few days open for viewing sakura in case you get bad weather in the first try. 
  • Don’t make the whole trip about the sakura. Like mentioned earlier, you’re never completely sure whether you will get to see the cherry blossoms during your travel, so it’s best to keep your expectations low, enjoy Japan, and think of the cherry blossoms as a cherry on top.(pun unintended)
  • Visit different parts of Japan. Instead of waiting for the sakura in Tokyo or Osaka, move around to increase your chances! The Shinkansen connects from Kyushu all the way to Hokkaido and you can ride it as many times as you want if you buy the JR pass!
  • Book hotels early. Both locals and tourists travel around Japan in order to see the cherry blossoms, so hotel prices tend to peak during this time. As soon as you buy your plane tickets, start planning your trip and book the hotels not too long after. 

What to do During Sakura Season

Experience a Hanami

If you want to experience sakura season the way locals do, you can go for a Hanami. Hanami directly translates into English as “flower viewing” but it’s usually only refers to sakura flowers and is only used during this time of the year. The term Hanami is used around loosely, describing different events during sakura season, but the traditional Hanami refers to having a picnic with family and friends, usually at a park, with a nice view of the cherry blossom flowers. 

Preparing for a Hanami

Once you pick a spot with a nice scenic view, its time to prepare what to bring. A Hanami is essentially a picnic with a nice view of the sakura trees so you pretty much need to bring picnic essentials. We recommend taking a visit to Don Quijote to get the stuff you need (plus it’s tax free). Here’s a checklist of essential items for a Hanami.

  • tarp
  • garbage bags
  • chairs or seat cushions
  • disposable utensils
  • paper towels & tissues
  • food & drinks

Tips For a Successful Hanami

If you want to enjoy a big Hanami gathering with your friends, here are some tips. 

  • Keep your dates flexible. The weather during Sakura season is unpredictable in Japan and there’s always a chance of rain. Check the weather forecast ahead of time so that you can always reschedule if the rain comes.
  • Get there early. You’ll be amazed by how fast a huge park can run out of space. Hanami is all about teamwork; Assign one person to save the spot nice and early with the tarp while the others bring food and supplies later on.
  • Find a good spot. A good spot isn’t just one with a nice view. It’s one that has a balance of nice views and close distance to the convenience store or the bathroom(especially in a huge national park).
  • Watch out for crows. Some areas have a lot of crows in Japan. Don’t leave your stuff unattended or keep them in a hard container such as a suitcase.
  • Stock up early. If you’re running out of food or supplies, it’s best to make the errands early. Convenience stores near Hanami spots may even run out of supplies before noon!
  • Bathrooms have a long wait time. You have been warned.

Here are some manners to keep in mind:

  • Don’t touch the trees. The cherry blossom trees are sensitive so avoid touching the flowers or picking them out.
  • Don’t take more space than needed. Parks can get really crowded and run out of space quickly. If you have a huge tarp, fold it up so that others can also enjoy the Hanami.
  • Put your trash in the right place. Don’t leave trash behind. If trash cans are full, take the trash home with you.
  • Loud noises. Be mindful of others who are enjoying the Hanami. Don’t blast your speakers on full blast in the middle of a public park. 


Attend a Cherry Blossom Festival


Another huge event is the Cherry Blossom Festivals, or Sakura Matsuri, held in various public parks and castles throughout Japan.

At the festival, there are lots of booths set up, where people can eat festival food, play Japanese festival games, and hang out with lots of people, all under the cherry blossom trees.

These are some common festival foods you can enjoy at a Sakura Matsuri.

  • Ichigo Ame: Glazed strawberry skewers
  • Yakisoba: Fried noodles
  • Takoyaki: Fried octopus balls
  • Odango: Fried Japanese mochi balls
  • Oden: Fish balls
  • Yakizakana: Grilled fish skewers

While you’re eating some awesome festival food, you can try out some Japanese festival games as well. Here are some common festival games that you can experience during the Sakura Matsuri.

  • kingyo tsukui: Goldfish fishing
  • Kujibiki: Lottery game
  • Suji awase: Number matching

Tips for Cherry Blossom Festivals

  • Bring cash. They usually don’t take credit card
  • Prepare for rain. Bring an umbrella in case it rains
  • Earlier is better. Especially Festivals in big cities, it gets really crowded by noon. Much better to start early
  • Bring extra layers. Spring time is still cold in Japan.
  • Attend the night festival. Yoruzakura(night sakura) is also really famous and they look completely different

Buy Cherry Blossom Products

What’s also great about coming to Japan during sakura season is that you get to bring it home! Many familiar products in Japan are redesigned for the sakura season and you can only get these items once a year. For example, you can get a sakura-themed tumbler from Starbucks and various sakura souvenirs from Don Quijote. 

Where to See the Sakura in Japan

There are thousands of places to watch the sakura, from local streets to full national parks. Here are some of the most popular places for watching the Sakura in various parts of Japan!


Sengan-en Garden (Kagoshima)

Address: 9700-1 Yoshinocho, Kagoshima, 892-0871, Japan
Hours: 8:30am-5:30pm

Mifuneyama Rakuen (Saga)

Address: Japan, 〒843-0022 Saga, Takeo, 武雄町武雄4100

Hours: 8:00am – 5:00pm

Omura Park (Nagasaki)

Address: 1 Chome-45-3 Kushima, Ōmura, Nagasaki 856-0834, Japan

Isshinji Temple (Oita) 

Address: 2 Chome-8-69 Osaka, Tennoji Ward, Osaka, 543-0062, Japan
Hours: 5:00am – 6:00pm

Nishi Park (Fukuoka)

Address: 13 Nishikoen, Chuo Ward, Fukuoka, 810-0061, Japan
Hours: 24 hours


Okayama Korakuen Garden (Okayama)

Address: 1-5 Korakuen, Kita Ward, Okayama, 703-8257, Japan
Hours: 7:00am – 5:00pm 

Peace Memorial Park (Hiroshima)

Address: 1 Chome-1 Nakajimacho, Naka Ward, Hiroshima, 730-0811, Japan
Hours: 24 hours

Asashiyama Forest Park (Kagawa)

Address: 3829-141 Takasecho Shimoasa, Mitoyo, Kagawa 767-0013, Japan 


Matsuyama Castle (Ehime)

Address: 1 Marunouchi, Matsuyama, Ehime 790-0008, JapanHours: 9:00am – 4:30pm 

Shiudeyama (Kagawa)

Address: Takumachotsumu, Mitoyo, Kagawa 769-1105, Japan


Himeji Castle (Himeji)

Address: 68 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo 670-0012, Japan
Hours: 9:00am – 4:00pm

Yoshino (Nara)

Address: Yoshinoyama, Yoshino, Yoshino District, Nara 639-3115, Japan

Maruyama Park (Kyoto)

Address: 463 Maruyamacho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0071, Japan
Hours: 24 hours

Expo Park (Osaka)

Address: 1-1 Senribanpakukoen, Suita, Osaka 565-0826, Japan
Hours: 9:30am – 5:00pm, closed Wednesdays

Philosophers path (Kyoto)

Address: Shishigatani Honenin Nishimachi, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8427, Japan
Hours: 24 hours


Takato Castle Park (Nagano)

Address: Japan, 〒396-0213 Nagano, Ina, 高遠町東高遠
Hours: 24 hours 

Chureito Pagoda (Yamanashi)

Address: 3353-1 Arakura, Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi 403-0011, Japan
Hours: 24 hours


Ueno Park (Tokyo)

Address: Japan, 〒110-0007 Tokyo, Taito City, Uenokoen, 8−・ 池之端三丁目
Hours: 5:00am – 11:00pm 

Shinjuku Gyoen (Tokyo)

Address: 11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0014, Japan
Hours: 9:00am – 4:30pm, closed Mondays 

Omiya Park (Saitama)

Address: Japan, 〒330-0803 Saitama, Omiya Ward, Takahanacho, 4Hours: 24 hours


Hirosaki Castle Park (Aomori)

Address:1 Shimoshiroganecho, Hirosaki, Aomori 036-8356, Japan
Hours: 24 hours 

Miharu Takizakura (Fukushima)

Address: Sakurakubo-115 Taki, Miharu, Tamura District, Fukushima 963-7714, Japan Kakunodate Samurai House (Akita)Address: Japan, 〒014-0300 Akita, Semboku, 角館町
Hours: 9:00am – 4:30pm, closed Mondays


Odori Park (Sapporo)

Address: 7 Chome Odorinishi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0042, Japan
Hours: 24 hours

Goryokaku (Hakodate)

Address: 44 Goryokakucho, Hakodate, Hokkaido 040-0001, Japan
Hours: 9:00am – 6:00pm


Sakura season is definitely something that’s on many bucket lists. We hope that our guide was helpful. 

Thank you for reading and we hope that you enjoy your trip to Japan during the sakura season!


The Complete Travel Guide to Ishigaki

If you’re looking for a hidden tropical getaway during your next trip to Japan, look no further because Ishigaki is the answer!

Ishigaki is home to many unique beaches and is a popular travel destination among Japanese people, but not so well known by travelers from outside the country. We put this guide together to introduce this beautiful island to everyone and hope that you add it to your bucket list!

Don’t forget to pin it for later!

Best Time to Go

Typhoon season for Ishigaki usually occurs around June to October and ironically, that’s also the busiest season since it’s also summer break time in Japan. Therefore, the best time to visit Ishigaki would be right before summer, around April and May, when tourism and temperature are not yet at its peak. 

Winter is also a great time to visit if you’re looking to escape the cold. Ticket prices also tend to be cheaper around November to January and you can also enjoy Ishigaki without the crowd of tourists as well!

How Many Days to go

To see most places in Ishigaki, you’ll need at least 3-4 days, but to completely enjoy your island vacation, we recommend staying for at least a week. Ishigaki has beautiful beaches, awesome food, and stunning nature, but to get the most out of this island, you’ll need to fully immerse yourself with it. Jump into the waters, search for the local mom & pop restaurant, and explore the neighboring Yaeyama islands as well. 

How to Get to Ishigaki

Ishigaki has a small domestic airport with occasional international flights to nearby countries. In most cases, you would transfer at either Osaka, Tokyo, or Naha and then arrive at Ishigaki. Another option is to purchase a ticket to Ishigaki separately, which can potentially help you save costs. 

Note: Since the end of 2019, more LCC (low cost carrier) airlines have increased operations to Ishigaki, making traveling to this island much more affordable. Now is definitely the best time to explore what Ishigaki has to offer!

Transportation in Ishigaki

The best way to experience Ishigaki and it’s nature is through a rental car.  Rental cars in Ishigaki are also much cheaper than they are in mainland Japan and can save you a significant amount of time compared to taking public transportation. 


If you’re unable to rent a car, we recommend booking your accommodation near the urban area of Ishigaki since this is where public transportation is. There are buses that come every 30-60 minutes and allow access to popular areas of the island, such as Kabira Bay. You can check the bus schedule here.

Taxis are available as well but they’re often hard to come across unless you’re near a central area. If you’re ever in need of a taxi, try asking a nearby business or restaurant if they can help you call one!

If you booked an activity, you may also check if they provide transportation to and from your accommodation.






Things to do

Chill Out at Kabira Bay

With clear blue waters and small green islands floating in the distance, the breathtaking view of Kabira Bay is the iconic symbol of Ishigaki.

Take the stairs down to the beach, and you can feel your feet sink right into the soft sand underneath the crystal clear water. 

At street level, there are multiple souvenir shops lined up and restaurants that serve some amazing Ishigaki cuisine.

Short Hike Up Mount Nosoko Mape

Even for those that don’t like hiking, we recommend trying this one out because it’s one of the best hiking experience we’ve had thus far.

The hike up to the peak of Mount Nosoko Mape is a steep trail through a path in the forest, but it’s a short one and takes less than 30 minutes. Once you get to the top, the trees clear away and suddenly you have this amazing view of Ishigaki. 

Because it’s such a breathtaking spot, the top of Mount Nosoko Mape is often considered a “power spot” among Japanese people, a place where you can go for spiritual healing, and there’s no questioning why!

Explore the Ibaruma Sabichi Cave

What’s interesting about the Ibaruma Sabichi Cave is that you can experience 3 different landscapes within a couple minutes. The entrance to the cave is a lush, green forest. If you walk through the other end of the dim cave, it opens up to a secret, secluded beach. Unlike other sandy beaches in Ishigaki, this one is a rocky type one and is partially the reason why this cave is a must-see in Ishigaki. 

Gazing at the Stars


Ishigaki is said to be one of the best places in the world to watch the stars. 

You can see 84 of the 88 constellations and even a faint outline of the Milky Way Galaxy on clear nights. There’s even an observatory here which you can visit. 

The stars can be enjoyed from pretty much anywhere on the island, but if you want to watch from the best spots, there are many affordable tours available, some that take you out to sea to watch!

Buy Souvenirs from Euglena Mall

Euglena mall is a large arcade mall located in the urban area of Ishigaki, near the ferry port.

There’s everything from souvenir shops to local public markets with fresh local produce. There’s also many restaurants surrounding Euglena mall that serve traditional Okinawan food.

If you’re wondering what souvenirs to bring back home, here’s a list of some popular souvenirs from Ishigaki.

  • Shima zori sandals. Okinawan style sandals that are nicely designed and comfortable to wear
  • Black pearl accessories. Ishigaki is the only place in Japan to produce black pearls. 
  • Salt. Ishigaki is famous for salt, especially since the island is surrounded by corals
  • Beni-imo tarts. Beni-imo is a type of sweet potato grown in Okinawa. The tart made from this Okinawan sweet potato is one of the most popular souvenirs here!
  • Chinsuko. Traditional Okinawan shortbread cookie.
  • Awamori – Traditional Okinawa Sake.
  • Koregusu – Okinawa chili sauce made with Awamori.

Water Activities

Kayak or SUP in Kabira Bay & Snorkeling in Blue Cave

Once you’ve feasted your eyes onto the iconic Kabira Bay, the next thing you’ll want to do is jump into the clear, cobalt waters. One of the most popular water activities in Ishigaki is to explore the waters by either kayak or SUP (stand up paddleboard). From on top of the water, you can see all sorts of marine life that live here.

Book your activity here.

Snorkel at Phantom Island

Take a boat and sail out to a close-by mini island made entirely of sand. On this island, the waters are shallow and the beach runs in a U shape. There are lots of diverse marine life in near the island and you can explore the waters with snorkeling gear by jump in straight from the island. 

Book your activity here.

Introductory Scuba Diving

What better way to enjoy the tropical island than to dive into the ocean? There are tons of marine life flourishing around Ishigaki island and one of the best way to experience it is by scuba diving. 

The waters are crystal clear and you may get a chance to run into some manta rays. In fact, Ishigaki is the most popular place to scuba dive in Japan. If you’ve never tried scuba diving before, don’t worry! There are plenty of places that don’t require a scuba certification. They teach you how to dive and make sure that nothing goes wrong. 

Book your activity here

Kayak into the Sunset

If you’re into unique, picturesque scenery, you can enjoy the golden hour on a kayak. The activity starts later in the day and lasts until the sun goes down. If you’re interested in participating in a calm activity, then we highly recommend this type of activity!

Book your activity here.

Food to Try in Ishigaki

Ishigaki Beef

Ishigaki beef is famous in Japan for being very high quality and tender and we highly recommend any dish made with this beef. Even common Japanese food such as gyudon and yakisoba taste nothing like the ones made in mainland Japan.

Restaurants that do use Ishigaki Beef usually have a sign up indicating so. If you don’t mind spending some extra money, try ordering the Ishigaki Beef Steak!

Yaeyama Soba

Yaeyama soba is a variation of the Okinawan soki soba with a seafood twist. Instead of using completely pork, the broth is infused with tuna and the dish is topped with minced meat and fish cake. 

Local Fish

As with many island destinations, fish is a very common ingredient. Any sushi or sashimi made with locally caught fish will taste incredible.

Sugar Cane Juice

Sugar cane is one of Ishigaki’s main produce and you can see sugar cane fields almost everywhere. Try a cup of freshly squeezed sugar cane juice from any smoothie shop in the island or even try some brown sugar snacks made from sugar canes!

Sata Andagi (Brown Sugar Donuts)

Speaking of brown sugar snacks, there’s one you must try. Sata Andagi is the Okinawan version of a donut and it’s in the shape of a ball rather than a ring. The natural sweeteners will make you feel less guilty when reaching for a second one!

Tapioca (Boba)

Ishigaki is known for its brown sugar and where there’s good brown sugar, there’s good tapioca drinks!

Ishigaki Restaurant


Ichibanza is the perfect place to try many different kinds of Ishigaki cuisines. Ishibanza is an izakaya located right outside of the ANA Intercontinental Hotel entrance and it’s the perfect stop from the airport to the city area. 

They serve everything from Yaeyama soba to Ishigaki steak. Whichever dish you choose, we highly recommend ordering a side of the mozuku tempura which is a type of seaweed, fried in tempura batter. 

Hours: 11:30am – 3:00pm, 6:00pm – 12:00am

Address: 354-5 Maezato, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0002, Japan

Phone Number: +81 980-83-5080

Kebab Kaboo

When arriving in Kabira Bay, Kebab Kaboo is one of the first restaurants you’ll see. They use Ishigaki beef in their kebabs, which automatically makes it a luxury kebab. 

They also serve Ishigaki beef sushi which won’t fill you up but is a great luxury snack.

Address: 917-1 Kabira, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0453, Japan

Phone Number: +81 90-1086-2413


Yuratic is a restaurant in downtown Ishigaki, located near Euglena mall, on the first floor of Hotel Cucule. Yuratic has a local vibe to it and serves a lot of traditional Okinawan food.

If you order any set meal, it comes with a piece of fresh sashimi on the side. They have great Yaeyama and Soki Soba, but their champloo was my favorite.

Hours: 11:00am – 10:00pm

Address: Japan, 〒907-0012 Okinawa, Ishigaki, Misakicho, 8−1 石垣島ホテル ククル1F

Phone Number: +81 980-88-7970

Banya Farm

Banya Farm is a smoothie shop located on the north eastern part of the island, and its an awesome rest stop on the way back from Mount Nosoko Mape or Ibaruma Sabichi Cave. 

Their smoothies are amazing but what’s more interesting is the shop itself. There’s a huge front yard with lots of greenery and various seating arrangements that can make for some great pictures!

On the other side of the yard is the shop owner’s residence, with lots of dogs, cats, and a sheep! And they sometimes let them roam around the area. In the back, there’s a short hiking path that takes you to an observation deck overlooking the coastline!

Hours: 10:00am – 5:00pm 

Address: 165-411 Tozato, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0241, Japan

Phone Number: +81 90-4490-7153


Papaya is another smoothie shop that’s located in the central north part of Ishigaki, a small distance from Kabira bay. At Papaya, it’s all about the taste.

They sell authentic, delicious fruit smoothies and sugar cane juice that they juice out on the spot. All of their flavor are natural and come from produce on the island. 

You can’t go wrong with any of their juices but we recommend getting the B blend, which is a magical mix of mango, pineapple, and sugar cane juice. 

Hours: 8:30am – 6:00pm

Address: 491 Fukai, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0451, Japan

Phone Number: +81 980-88-2583


Ishigaki is the hidden tropical island getaway that you definitely need to add to your Japan travel itinerary! Go and enjoy the island breeze, participate in water activities, and indulge on some authentic Ishigaki beef!