Japan Travel Blog Logo
Follow us:
When Do Cherry Blossoms Bloom in Japan? (2020 Update)
Picture | January 23rd, 2020 | Dayna Hannah
Share:

When the icy winter winds turn into cool spring breezes, pink clouds of cherry blossoms burst from Japan's sakura trees. From Hokkaido to Okinawa, the fragile flowers welcome in the warm weather.

The cherry blossom season in Japan is a favorite time of year for locals and international travelers alike. Festivals pop up around the country, and people race from south to north to experience the entire season. While the Japanese sakura tree is a worldwide sensation, you might still have a few questions about cherry blossoms.

Before your next tour in Japan, let's delve into some of your concerns. By the end of this article, you'll be an expert!

HOW DO YOU SAY CHERRY BLOSSOM IN JAPANESE?

If you've never studied Japanese before, let's begin with an introductory lesson. The word for cherry blossom in Japanese is sakura (桜). I'll switch between the two terms throughout this article. Interestingly, sakura is more descriptive; it can refer to cherry blossom flowers, trees, or the delicate flavor of the petals.

"The FLAVOR? Like from cherries? Do cherry blossoms grow cherries?" you might ask.

The Japanese sakura tree does indeed grow small fruits, but they are completely inedible. Cherries come from a similar species of tree, but cherry blossoms grow chrysanthemums—Japan's national flower. Sakura flavor comes from the petals, but more on that later. A more pertinent question is...

WHEN IS THE CHERRY BLOSSOM SEASON IN JAPAN?

When most people think about the cherry blossom season in Japan, images of spring come to mind. That's because the most common type of sakura, Yoshino cherry, blooms during this time of year. However, just saying "spring" doesn't cover the extent of the potential dates of the season!

Japan is 3,008 km (1,869 mi) long and has both subarctic and subtropical climates. They can start blooming as early as January in Okinawa and as late as May in Hokkaido! Depending on your destinations, the best time to see cherry blossoms can vary.

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO SEE CHERRY BLOSSOMS?

In recent years, rising temperatures and unusual weather patterns have brought us earlier and earlier blooms. The dates tend to fluctuate by just a few days, but unfortunately, it isn't easy to plan a trip around them.

Millions of people come to Japan during the last week of March and the first week of April. However, there's no guarantee they'll bloom on exactly these days. Have no fear! You can always contact us to help guide your booking decisions.

To help you get started, here's the current 2020 Cherry Blossom Forecast! The Japan Meteorological Corporation publishes predictions based on annual averages, rainfall, and temperature. But remember, cherry blossoms are fickle. How long they last can change by several factors, including sudden rainstorms or gusts of wind!

City

Flowering

Full Bloom

Sapporo

May 1st

May 5th

Aomori

April 22nd

April 26th

Sendai

April 4th

April 9th

Tokyo

March 16th

March 24th

Kanazawa

March 29th

April 4th

Nagano

April 5th

April 11th

Nagoya

March 18th

March 28th

Kyoto

March 20th

March 29th

Osaka

March 23rd

March 31st

Wakayama

March 23rd

April 1st

Hiroshima

March 20th

March 30th

Kochi

March 19th

March 27th

Fukuoka

March 21st

March 30th

Kagoshima

April 1st

April 12th

WHERE ARE THE BEST PLACES TO SEE CHERRY BLOSSOMS?

Let's break it down! Here are our favorite places to have a hanami from south to north!

CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN OKINAWA

The Okinawan archipelago became part of Japan in 1879 and was briefly under U.S. control until 1972. Before this, Okinawa was a separate country called the Ryukyu Kingdom with a distinct culture and language. You can still see influences from Ryukyuan heritage at several sightseeing spots, many of which have cherry blossoms!

Things aren't the same in Okinawa as on mainland Japan. While most places in Japan have Yoshino cherries, the rare Kanhi Zakura variety grows on the southern islands. The flowers grow in a downward direction and have deep shades of pink. You can usually see them between January and February.

The Motobu Yaedake Cherry Blossom Matsuri is the first annual cherry blossom festival in Japan. It takes place on Mount Yae in Western Motobu Peninsula, which is also home to the Churaumi Aquarium. Over 7,000 cherry trees grow on the summit. The cherry blossom festival dates are from January 18th, 2020, to February 2nd, 2020.

The capital city Naha holds a sakura festival in Yogi Park, a 15-minute walk from Kokusaidori Street. Over 400 trees bloom along a riverside, which makes for a lovely stroll. In addition to the flowers, you can also see a folk song competition, hula dance performers, and browse the food stalls. This year's Naha Sakura Festival will take place from February 19th, 2020, to February 23rd, 2020.

The Nago City Cherry Blossom Festival will happen on January 25th and 26th, 2020. With over 20,000 cherry blossom trees, it’s one of Okinawa’s most beloved viewing spots! From the observatory deck, you'll get an expansive view that extends to the shoreline. You can also watch staged events like taiko drumming as well as parades in the city.

CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN KYUSHU

The cherry blossom season in Kyushu takes place from late March to early April. However, the exact dates for festivals tend to be a little earlier than the ones further north. Most first-time travelers to Japan hold off on going to Kyushu until their second or third trip. However, we highly encourage you to check out this corner of the country!

If you love history, Nagasaki is one of the most significant cities to visit. You might recognize the name for its tragic atomic bombing. But before this event, it was the only port in Japan open to foreign trade between the 17th and 19th centuries. You can see where Dutch merchants lived on Dejima Island, and where European and Chinese immigrants would eventually settle.

If you're going to Nagasaki between March 20th and 30th, stop by Omura Park! Omura Park hasn't announced its 2020 cherry blossom festival dates yet, but keep it on your tentative bucket list. It’s home to 2,000 cherry trees, including the Omura Zakura type. This rose-like chrysanthemum has anywhere between sixty and two hundred petals!

In Miyazaki Prefecture, you'll find some of Japan's hidden gems like the Takachiho Gorge and the "Cherry Street" Daramizu Plateau. Around 3,500 sakura trees of varying types grow along either side of the road, making a tunnel-like effect. At the end of March, the city illuminates the blossoms with spotlights from sunset to 10:00 pm.

But the real crown for the best places to see cherry blossoms in Kyushu goes to Mifuneyama Rakuen. Approximately 2,000 Yoshino, Oshima, Mountain, and Double-Flowered cherry trees bloom in succession across 120 acres. As if that wasn't enough, 200,000 azaleas also bloom during this time in a symphony of color. The 2020 Mifuneyama Rakuen Cherry Blossom Festival will take place from March 15th to April 5th.

CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN SHIKOKU

Sandwiched between the Pacific and the Seto Inland Sea, Shikoku is Japan’s second-smallest island. Most travelers that come here are Buddhists walking along the Shikoku Pilgrimage that runs mostly along the coasts. There are 88 temples on the trail, and the journey takes most people anywhere between 30 to 60 days to complete!

Modern art aficionados also can’t miss Naoshima Island, where contemporary pieces and museums dot the landscape. Architect Tadao Ando designed many of its destinations like the Benesse House, Chichu Art Museum, and the Lee Ufan Museum. You can also spot a few of Yayoi Kusama’s spotted pumpkins.

If you love Japanese-style gardens, Ritsurin Koen Park deserves your attention, particularly during the cherry blossom season. Exactly 320 cherry trees bloom among six lakes and thirteen hills. As you explore the grounds, you can take a break at one of the teahouses and soak in the traditional atmosphere. Ritsurin Koen Park hasn’t released any news about its 2020 cherry blossoms, but the bloom should start in late March.

CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN CHUGOKU

The Chugoku region makes up the western region of Honshu near the Sea of Japan and the Seto Inland Sea. One of its most famous attractions is the Tottori Sand Dunes, which stretch across a sixteen-kilometer expanse. However, you might be more familiar with Hiroshima City.

On August 6th, 1945, allied forces dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. You can learn about this historic day at the Peace Memorial Park and adjacent museum. Part of the park includes the "Corridor for Peace," where 300 cherry blossoms bloom along the river. You can expect to see cherry blossoms starting to bloom in Hiroshima on March 20th.

While you're in the area, don't pass up the chance to see Miyajima Island. A 10-minute ferry ride takes you over Osaka Bay to one of Japan's top three most beautiful sights. Here, you can explore Itsukushima Shrine, play with wild deer, and go hiking up Mount Misen. There are around 1,900 cherry trees on Miyajima Island, which usually begin blooming on April 1st.

CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN KANSAI

International tourists aren't the only ones who love the Kansai region. Japanese travelers also can't get enough of the food, fashion, and fun here! School groups make regular trips to Kyoto, young and trendy types shop in Osaka, and pilgrims take retreats to Mount Koya. Whatever your reason for coming to Japan, you can find something for you in Kansai.

Osaka Castle is the best place to see cherry blossoms in the city! The spacious Osaka Castle Park attracts thousands of locals to throw down their tarps and have picnics every year. There are around 3,000 trees in total, including 300 Yoshino cherries in the Nishinomaru Garden. One of which determines the official blooming season for Osaka Prefecture (starting on March 23rd).

You'll never feel as one with nature as you will in Nara Park—for a city park, that is. Nara is an industrialized town flanked by forested mountains. Todaiji Temple attracts travelers from around the world and wild deer that aren’t shy around humans. Nara Park is also home to about 1700 cherry trees.

The Arashiyama district on Kyoto's western border deserves a full day to explore. One of the first stops on any tour of this area will be the 400-year-old Togetsukyo Bridge. The bridge provides an expansive view of the mountains where thousands of cherry blossoms start blooming around March 20th.

CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN KYOTO

No matter how many times you come to Japan, you'll never be able to get enough of Kyoto. With culture dripping from every corner, it's like stepping into the Japan you learned about from your history books. It's no wonder so many people flock here when the sakura trees open their petals. The thought of seeing ancient structures surrounded by pink is enough to send anyone into daydreams of spring.

Of course, anyone can also mean everyone. While going to Kyoto during the cherry blossom season is the chance of a lifetime, prepare yourself for contending with crowds. If you don’t hire a guide, make restaurant reservations, and set a budget for taking taxis instead of buses. A little preparation and research will go a long way to keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

One way to combat travel stress is to try to stick to locations with wide walking paths like Maruyama Park. It's the perfect place to have a picnic under the shade of a sakura tree. In the center of the park, you'll find a 70-year-old weeping cherry tree. Different places in Kyoto will start holding cherry blossom festivals during the peak bloom.

If you prefer to dash around different trees as you sightsee, consider walking along the Philosopher's Path. In other seasons, this 2-kilometer stretch is just a simple route to get between Ginkakuji and Nanzenji Temple. However, in the spring, it becomes something otherworldly as the cherry blossoms that run along the canal begin to bloom.

Holding cherry blossom viewing parties used to be an activity only the aristocrats could enjoy. In the 16th century, feudal warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi threw hanami parties at Daigoji Temple. You can watch reenactments on the second Sunday of April. The temple complex has around 150,000 Buddhist-related artifacts and 1,000 cherry blossoms on its grounds.

CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN KANTO

The great thing about Japan's cherry blossom season is that the whole country is celebrating! You don't necessarily need to go to internationally famous viewing spots to have spectacular experiences. If you've been to Japan several times before, you might consider exploring new cities outside of Tokyo to get your fill.

Nikko City is attractive in the fall, but you don't want to miss seeing the cherry blossoms as well. In 1617, Tokugawa Ieyasu established the Nikko Kaido Cherry Blossom Route to create an accessible path between Tokyo and Toshogu Shrine. There are around 1500 sakura trees along the way that typically bloom a little later than the ones in Tokyo. The Nikko Kaido cherry blossoms begin opening around early April.

Ibaraki Prefecture often goes overlooked by travelers, but it deserves your attention for many, many, many reasons. One of those being that Ibaraki doesn't just have the typical Yoshino cherry trees, but also the double-flowering type. As the name suggests, this variety has twice as many petals, and it also lasts longer than the Yoshino trees. Head to Shizumine Park in Nakashi City in mid-to-late April, where 2300 of them grow.

There are around 10,000 cherry blossom trees throughout Sakurayama Park (Gunma Prefecture), 3,000 of which are Yoshinos that bloom in spring. However, the majority of them are Fuyu Zakura, which you can see in mid-October and November. That's right, April isn't your only chance to see cherry blossoms! Fuyu Zakura flowers are sparser than their springtime cousins, but they make a gorgeous contrast against the fiery autumn colors.

CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN TOKYO

If you don't particularly enjoy traipsing around rural areas, you can still enjoy the cherry blossoms in the big city. Despite being a megalopolis, Tokyo has several expansive parks where you'll almost forget that you're in the city at all! The Japan Meteorological Corporation predicts Tokyo's cherry blossoms will reach their full bloom on March 24th.

If you've never seen cherry blossoms in Tokyo, the first place you must go is Ueno Park. There are over 1000 trees, most of them lining the pathway between Keisei Ueno Station and the Tokyo National Museum. The branches from either side are so long that they reach out over your head, creating a tunnel-like effect.

Ueno Park isn’t the best place to have a hanami picnic. Most attendees reserve their spots very early in the morning and sit on concrete grounds. As an alternative, head to Yoyogi Park, which has fewer trees than Ueno (700), but has expansive lawns and comfortable grass.

Our suggested list wouldn't be complete without mentioning Shinjuku Gyoen, which has seasonal blooms all year round. There are over a thousand trees here, and the blooming season lasts a little longer than most parts of Tokyo. Note that unlike Ueno and Yoyogi, Shinjuku Gyoen charges a small admission fee and has opening and closing hours.

CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN CHUBU

Nagoya, the largest city in Chubu, expects to see cherry blossoms around the same time as Tokyo and Kyoto. However, that isn't true for the entire area. In mountainous Nagano, the flowering period will begin on April 5th, and Kanazawa will start to see them on March 29th. The discrepancy is partly due to Chubu’s Kohigan trees that bloom later and last longer in cold climates.

You can see over 1500 Kohigan cherries at Takato Castle Site Park. Along with Hirosaki Castle and Yoshinoyama Park, it is one of the top three places to see cherry blossoms in Japan. The annual cherry blossom festival usually lasts for the entire month of April and includes evening illuminations. Ina City predicts the flowering period will start on April 6th.

For those who can’t get enough of Japanese gardens, Kenrokuen is the ideal cherry blossom viewing spot. Along with Mito's Kairakuen and Okayama's Korakuen, it is one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan. On the northeastern side, the cherry trees bloom along with seasonal flowers. Kanazawa City expects to see the first blossoms on April 1st and the peak viewing period by April 7th.

If you go to Kawazu in April, you'll, unfortunately, miss the city's main cherry blossom festival by a long shot. The area-specific Kawazu Zakura trees bloom in February and March! Despite the cold weather, you'll still see a classic cherry blossom festival with attendees picnicking under the petals. The 2020 Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival will take place from February 10th to March 10th.

CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN MOUNT FUJI

Cherry blossoms and Mount Fuji are both iconic images of Japan, and you won't regret spending the sakura season in this area. Naturally, there aren't any trees growing on Mount Fuji's peak, but the cities around her base are chock-full of them! Being a volcano, Fuji created five caldera lakes over the centuries that offer stunning natural views. Also, the small towns near Fuji offer easy-to-access cruises, ropeways, hot springs, and ryokans for travelers.

Fujikawaguchiko and Minobu cities border Lake Kawaguchiko. Cherry blossoms bloom on the northern and eastern shores in mid-April. You can see both sides by boarding one of the lake's sightseeing cruises or riding the Mount Fuji Panoramic Ropeway. At this time, Fujikawaguchiko City hasn't announced the dates for the 2020 Kawaguchiko Cherry Blossom Festival.

Near Hakone lies the resort town Gotemba. It sits at 450 meters above sea level, and its temperate climate is a relief for those coming from humid Tokyo. Gotemba Heiwa Koen has majestic views of Mount Fuji and is gorgeous in late March and early April.

CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN TOHOKU

The further north you go in Japan, the later the sakura season. The Tohoku region makes up six of Honshu's prefectures and consists mostly of rural communities, national parks, and hot spring resorts. Tohoku has plenty of hidden gems to discover like Shirakawago, the Takayama Spring and Autumn Festivals, and Lake Towada. Depending on which parts you visit, the cherry blossoms can last from mid-April to May.

Around one million people visit Kakunodate every year. Cherry blossoms grow on the Hinokinai River and in the preserved samurai district. During the Edo Period, aristocratic families planted weeping cherry trees to try to outperform each other on cultivation techniques. Now, it's your turn to enjoy their legacies during the cherry blossom festival from April 20th to May 5th.

In the early Taisho Era (1912-1926), the area near and around Kitakami was going through a severe case of deforestation. To combat this, the mayor created an initiative to make a cherry blossom viewing spot that would garner nationwide recognition. Now, 10,000 cherry trees of 150 species and 150,000 azaleas grow in Tenshochi Park. There aren't any announcements about this year's festival yet, but they should be coming soon.

Plenty of castles in Japan like Himeji and Matsumoto are brilliant when their sakura trees bloom. If you're in Tohoku, head to Tsuruga Castle in Aizuwakamatsu. The atmospheric grounds will put you in the mood to try a cup of Japanese matcha at Rinkaku Teahouse. You can expect the cherry blossoms at Tsuruga Castle to bloom sometime between mid-April and May.

CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN HOKKAIDO

More and more people are waking up to the charms of Japan's northern-most island every year! There's always something to see or do any time of year in Hokkaido. From its dazzling winter festivals to its lavender and moss phlox displays in summer, there's never a dull moment.

Hokkaido is also the last area of Japan to experience the cherry blossom bloom. Budget travelers can save by putting off their trip until May 1st. You’ll miss the main thrust of the season, but that’s when they’ll start blooming in Hokkaido.

Compared to bustling Tokyo and sophisticated Kyoto, the atmosphere in Sapporo feels homey and laid-back. Although one of Japan's largest cities, Sapporo has plenty of places to catch the cherry blossom bloom. Namely, you can find them around Odori Park, where you can take in the view from the TV Tower Observatory. Or, take it easy in Maruyama Park, where you'll also find Hokkaido Shrine.

Matsumae-jo is the only castle in Hokkaido, and one of the best places to see cherry blossoms in the country. The park surrounding the grounds has over 10,000 cherry trees of different varieties. Because each type has different flowering seasons, you can see them blooming for nearly an entire month. Depending on the peak viewing period, the official Matsumae Park Cherry Blossom Festival takes place from mid-April to mid-May.

The "southern" city Hakodate is your final destination when you take the Shinkansen to Hokkaido. Given its geographical location, Japan established Goryokaku Fort in Hakodate to defend the borders from foreign invasion. It lost its military status in 1910 and opened as a public park soon after with over 1600 Yoshino cherry trees.

HOW LONG DO CHERRY BLOSSOMS LAST?

The typical lifespan of sakura chrysanthemums is 10-14 days. Depending on the species, they may last longer, but Yoshino cherries bud, bloom, and wilt in this short span. Catching these blossoms might seem incredibly difficult and frustrating to plan an overseas trip around. But their evanescence is part of what makes them so beautiful and significant in Japanese culture.

WHAT DO CHERRY BLOSSOMS SYMBOLIZE?

Japanese people equate several meanings with cherry blossoms, but most notably, they speak to the beauty and fragility of life. The flowers give the lands a sense of renewal as winter thaws into spring, but they only last a short while.

When Japanese people go to a cherry blossom festival, they marvel at the pink flowers and appreciate their impermanence. In Waka poems, writers often note how sakura blooms are similar to life itself. Our time on earth is a spectacular experience, but it's only temporary and sometimes too short.

The burgeoning seasonal change also markets the start of the new school term for students, as well as the fiscal year. For Japanese people, it doesn't make sense to start things according to the calendar. They wait to embark on new ventures and goals as nature tells them. To celebrate, they hold "hanami" parties with their families, friends, and co-workers.

WHAT DO YOU DO AT A CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL?

Most international travelers spend their time at cherry blossom festivals dashing around every tree and taking picture after picture. However, Japanese people do quite the opposite. They choose a spot to lay down a blanket to hold a hanami (flower-viewing) party. Most people bring bento boxes they prepare at home, or in some cases, have a full-on barbecue party!

Some parks hold official festivals where vendors sell Japanese street food staples such as chocolate-covered bananas, candied strawberries, and okonomiyaki. But the real treat this time of year is the abundance of sakura-flavored items. I said I would get back to this, didn't I?

Just as Japan's sakura season is temporary, so too are these limited-time-only delights. The petals add a light flavor to treats such as ice cream, candy, and traditional Japanese sweets. Even large companies like McDonald's and Starbucks join in the fun and serve sakura-flavored parfaits and coffees!

Whether you come during the early southern or late northern blooming season, take in every sight along the way. We encourage you to have a picnic under the shade of a sakura tree and stop to smell the cherry blossoms.


20 Places to Go in Kyushu & Other Parts of Southern Japan

20 Places to Go in Kyushu & Other Parts of Southern Japan

TRAVEL | Where to Go

Picture | May 8th, 2020 | Dayna Hannah

Looking for things to do in Kyushu? Don’t forget to add other places in southern Japan to your iti......

Visiting the Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo

Visiting the Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo

ANIME | Anime Spots

Picture | April 25th, 2020 | Dayna Hannah

Can't get enough of the whimsical world of Ghibli? Check out the Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo.......

Cat Cafes & Animal Cafes in Japan

Cat Cafes & Animal Cafes in Japan

FOOD & DRINKS | Specialty

Picture | March 20th, 2020 | Dayna Hannah

Visiting a neko (cat) cafe or an animal cafe in Japan is the purrfect way to add some fun to ......



Search Group Tour

Search
FOLLOW US

SUBSCRIBE TO BLOG VIA EMAIL

POPULAR ARTICLES

TOP 1
TOP 2
TOP 3
TOP 4
TOP 5
TOP 6
TOP 7
TOP 8