It’s springtime! And when it’s spring, it means that the cherry trees are ready to bloom again. Also known as the sakura in the native language, cherry blossoms have their own significant importance and meaning to the country as well as the people.
Cherry blossom is the symbol of renewal and spring. Japanese people believe that it also represents the meaning of life, especially the short fleeting moment. Cherry blossom is short-lived. After their full beauty bloom, they will start to fall and wither – and eventually die. That’s why hanami, or the custom of watching the cherry blossom bloom, is very popular. It’s like having a small picnic party with families, friends, and colleagues. Naturally, cherry blossoms make people happy and merry. During the hanami, they will drink, eat, and even have a barbecue under the cherry blossom trees.
Hanami traditional goes back to thousands of years before. Hanami itself means ‘watching blossoms’ and it can be done while having fun and getting together with the loved ones. The participants would bring alcohol, cooked meals, sweets, and snacks. Offices and schools often have welcome parties during this event so new people can meet and interact – making new friends are possible during this event.
Can you watch the hanami at night? Of course, you can. In fact, night watching is quite popular because of the romantic and beautiful atmosphere. If you go to hanami watch at night, it is called yozakura. The idea is the same, really, to enjoy the atmosphere and to celebrate.
In the event that you are about to go to Japan for your next holiday, it would be a shame to miss out this opportunity. Make sure to include hanami in your must-do activities while in Japan. It would be best to know the schedules and also locations of cherry blossom watching – yes, they have the prediction of the schedules! – so you can come to these locations and watch the full beauty with your own eyes.
When Will the Sakura Start Blooming?
Keep in mind that the best time to see the cherry blossom trees bloom (while enjoying hanami at the same time) is different between each region in Japan. It’s because the end of winter can be different from one place to another. This is another reason why the ‘schedule’ for cherry blossom to bloom can be varied too. The cherry blossom trees generally start blooming from the southern area first and it continues to the northern area.
Okinawa is generally the first place where the cherry blossom starts blooming from the many places that become the main destinations for cherry blossom watching. Generally, the cherry blossom season starts from the end of March to the beginning (or even the middle) of April. However, it is possible that some cherry blossom trees in some areas in Japan have started blooming first from the beginning of January – so there is no exact science in this. Predictions can be made, but there are also possibilities where things can go south.
Kaika is the name for the first cherry blossom that blooms. The peak of the cherry blossom season is Mankai, which usually happens a week after the first flower blooms.
The Predictions of Sakura Watching Schedules and Locations
You need to remember that it is a matter of prediction – there is no exact science in this. This happens because each area has different weather. Moreover, the weather pattern itself can be different from year to year. That’s why it is called predictions – which can help you decide when and where to go to watch the cherry blossom. Here are some of the best locations for 2019.
1. Tokyo (17 March – 1 April)
It is predicted that cherry blossom season will start from 17th of March and the peak will take place a week afterwards. Watching the cherry blossom bloom is one of a kind experience – you will never get it elsewhere. This capital city of Japan has some interesting spots to enjoy the cherry blossom, such as Shinjuku Gyoen, Yoyogi Park, Sumida, Aoyama Cemetry, Ueno Onshi Park, and Meguro.
If you want to enjoy the total beauty of cherry blossom, Tokyo has one of the best and also the most popular parks, known as Koishikawa Korakuen. To reach the park, take the JR Line to Idabashi or you can take a Metro to Korakuen Station. From there, you only need to walk for 10 minutes. The park is open every day from 9 AM to 5 PM with the entrance fee ticket of 300 yen.
2. Fukuoka (18 March – 4 April)
Fukuoka is one area in Japan often chosen by tourists to enjoy the spring, especially the hanami tradition. It is predicted that cherry blossom will start blooming from 18th of March and the peak will happen on around the 27th of March.
There are some of the best spots to marvel at the beauty of cherry blossom in Fukuoka, such as Nishi Park, Atago Shrine, Fukuoka Castle Rains, San Hou Park, and Uminonakamichi Seaside Park. One way to enjoy the cherry blossom is to rent a car and travel around from one spot to another. Of course, you should have the hanami on each spot you are visiting!
3. Osaka (20 March – 4 April)
The cherry blossom trees in these areas are predicted to start blooming from 20th of March and the peak should happen a week after that. In Osaka alone, there are some interesting spots to enjoy the cherry blossom, such as Kema Cherry blossomnomiya, Commemorative Park, Expo ‘70 Park, and Osaka Castle Park.
From those several spots, Osaka Castle Park is considered the best spot to watch the flower bloom. You should be able to see 4000 cherry blossom trees grow well on the back yard of the castle – imagine how beautiful they are when they bloom! If you are interested in the boat ride around Osaka Castle, then you should leave early to make sure that you get a spot.
You can buy Osaka Amazing Pass and get an onboard boat that will take you into the garden of the amazing castle freely. Moreover, the Pass enables you to enter other tourists destinations easily. The Pass also gives you unlimited access for using the bus, underground subway, metro, and trem.
4. Kyoto (21 March – 3 April)
Kyoto is another interesting city to visit for hanami. The cherry blossom is predicted to bloom from 21st of March and the peak may take place on the 28th of March. There are some of the best spots to enjoy hanamis, such as Daigojji Temple, Nango Park, Kiyomizudera Temple, Maruyama Park, and Toji Temple.
If you are looking for a different atmosphere and ambience, why don’t you get on a romantic train trip of Sagano? It connects Saga Arashiyama and Kameoka. You will get the best experience and unforgettable view of going down the tunnels full of cherry blossom. Just make sure that you have reserved the ticket first because this is popular entertainment. More and more tourists are getting interested in cherry blossom watching and the train ride.
5. Hiroshima (22 March – 5 April)
Hiroshima can be your best alternative if you are planning to come to Japan by the end of March. The cherry blossom will start blooming on the 22nd of March and the peak may happen on the 29th of March – a week afterwards. Some of the best spots in this city include Hiroshima Castle, Shukkeien Garden, Peace Memorial Park, and Five-Storied Pagoda.
If you are planning to enjoy the beauty of hanami on your way to Kansai or Hiroshima, you can book a ticket for JR Pass from Kansai – Hiroshima. With the same pass, you can go to other cities to ‘hunt’ the festivities of hanami. Isn’t it efficient enough?
6. Nara (23 March – 4 April)
If you are planning on visiting Nara, you should be able to find some interesting spots to enjoy hanami. You can go to Koriyama Castle Park, Yoshimizujinja Shrine, Mount Yoshino, or Nara Park and spend some fun time there. One of the fun of going to Nara Park is that you can collect the cherry blossom around the park. Plus, you get to see the deer. There are 1700 cherry blossom trees in the park. Don’t miss out the fun and the excitement of hanami on the peak of cherry blossom season, which may likely happen on 28th of March.
7. Okoyama (23 March – 5 April)
If you come to Okoyama, you should come to Okoyaman Korakuen, which is one of the best 3 parks in the country. It has a wide and vast green field along with various beautiful plants and flowers. As you can guess, you should be able to find the cherry blossom trees there easily. Besides the plants, you can also find a big koi and traditional architecture that is beautiful and unique.
It is no wonder if Okoyaman Korakuen is given the title of the best garden in Japan. During this cherry blossom season, the park will have a marvellous sight. The cherry blossom starts blooming on the 23rd of March and the peak may happen on the 30th of March. If Okoyama hasn’t been included in your itinerary, you should do it now.
8. Fukushima (30 March – 14 April)
Basically, almost all areas in Japan can be the ideal place for hanami, and Fukushima is one of them. This is the biggest prefecture in Japan and the cherry blossom in this area usually blooms longer than the other areas.
The cherry blossom will start blooming on the 30th of March and the peak may happen on the 6th of April. You can go to some of the best spots for cherry blossom watching, such as Ogawa Suwa Shrine, Miharu Shidarezakura, Kasumiga Castle Park, Natsui River Senbozakura, and Hanamiyama Park.
9. Nagano (4 April – 17 April)
There are some of the best hanami spots in this city, such as Mount Hikarujo, Lake Nakatsuna, and Matsumoto Castle. If you are an adventurous type, choose Mount Hikarujo. You can hike the mountain, surrounded by the blooming trees. If you are into history, go to Matsumoto Castle. There are 300 cherry blossom trees there. Not to mention that you can learn about the history of the place as well as enjoying the magnificent view of Northern Japan Alps.
The cherry blossom is expected to bloom from 4th of April with the peak is happening around a week afterwards, which is happening on the 10th of April. If you are coming to Nagano, be sure to reserve Nagano JR Pass ticket beforehand.
10. Aomori (17 April – 26 April)
The bloom will start from 17th of April and the peak may take place on the 22nd of April. One of the best spots for cherry blossom watching is Hirosaki Castle Park with its 2,500 cherry blossom trees scattered around the castle.
11. Hokkaido (1 May – 13 May)
The cherry blossom trees in Hokkaido will start blooming on the 1st of May and the peak may happen on the 8th of May. Some of the best spots for hanami are Arashiyama Koen, Noboribetsu Onsen Flower Tunnel, Hakodate Park, and Matsumae Park.
Feel free to come to Hakodate Park at night. You can enjoy the cherry blossom while enjoying the snacks available around the area. There is plenty of tasty food there! If you are into photography, you can go to Noboribetsu Onsen Flower Tunnel and get the best shot! The cherry blossom trees are giving a visual effect of a beautiful tunnel, which is absolutely gorgeous.
If you are coming to Hokkaido, make sure to reserve Hokkaido JR Pass. You can also consider renting a car, which will make your trip more relaxed and enjoyable for your cherry blossom view hunting trip.
Tips to Enjoy Sakura Season
Cherry blossom season provides the best opportunity to see how nature works and beautiful the setting is. You don’t want to waste your efforts for something useless, do you? That’s why there are some things to consider when you are about to go for cherry blossom hunting.
- Make sure you make the reservation before the big day. Whether it’s the plane tickets, hotels, or trains, make sure that you are prepared. It’s to make sure that you get a spot. Plus, you can get the best deal.
- Get detailed information about the schedules and location for hanami. If you are planning to travel from one place to another, the schedule will be quite handy.
- Find out another interesting event. If you are coming to a city to enjoy the hanami, make sure that you don’t miss out the opportunity to go to other interesting events too. Check out the internet and start doing your research!
- Wear kimono. If you are going to make a memorable picture, at least wear the kimono. It is authentic and it is real. You will have a blast wearing these beautiful traditional clothes.
You have to admit that cherry blossom is beautiful. It is one of a kind. It is unique. And hunting the view can be a challenge. However, if you already have the schedule and you are prepared for the trip, you will have one of the best holiday experiences of a lifetime – guaranteed! Just be prepared and have fun. All of those cherry blossoms are waiting for you.