Beginner’s Guide to Cherry Blossom in Japan

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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

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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

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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!

Kyushu

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

Chugoku

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 

Shikoku

Matsuyama Castle (Ehime)

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

Shiudeyama (Kagawa)

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

Kansai

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

Chubu

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

Kanto

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, 4
Hours: 24 hours

Tohoku

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

Hokkaido

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

Conclusion

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!

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