Cherry blossoms are an integral part of Japanese culture, and each spring, the county waits with bated breath for the first flushes of pink. Usually, the blooms burst into colour between March and April (depending on the temperature and weather conditions). Here’s everything you need to know about the cherry blossoms in Japan this year

Each year the earliest blooms appear in tropical Okinawa around February, and the last ones appear in northern Hokkaido in early May. Some of the best places to see the cherry blossoms are in Maruyama Park, Mount Yoshino, Himeji Castle and Fuji Five Lakes. There are also tons of tree varieties, each blooming at a slightly different time. 

What Will This Article Cover?

Even though we’re right in the middle of cherry blossom season, we’ll all have to wait until next year to enjoy their magnificence. While Japan hasn’t seen an explosion in COVID-19 rates like Spain or Italy, people are being discouraged to hold viewing parties, leading to many famous cherry blossom viewing spots being temporarily closed, and all related public gatherings being cancelled.

Also Read: A List Of Cancelled Events Because Of Coronavirus

Cherry blossoms in Japan in bloom
Cherry blossoms at Meguro Canal in Tokyo

What’s Happening In 2020?

The cherry blossom season normally draws in over 8 million foreign visitors each year to Japan, but the global pandemic has decreased tourism significantly. While public gatherings have been discouraged all across the country, a few people have ventured out to view the cherry blossoms in Japan. 

The cherry blossom season arrived early in 2020 as the winter was quite warm. Early flowers appeared in Tokyo around 14 March, with peak dates between 21 and 22 March. Blossoms appeared in Osaka and Fukuoka around 23 March, with the best viewing dates between 31 March to 10 April. You can refer to this handy cherry blossom forecast for more detailed information. 

Why Is Cherry Blossom Season So Important In Japan?

Cherry blossoms, or sakura in Japanese, have been celebrated in Japanese culture for thousands of years. Their short blooming period is seen as more than just a chance to admire some pretty petals; it’s seen as a meditation on life, death and renewal and the ephemeral nature of being. The meaning of cherry blossom is many-layered; it can be found in Japanese literature, poetry and art, scrolled into the swords of the samurai, as a symbol for fallen soldiers, of new beginnings and of friendship.

Lots of people eagerly await March and April as a time to witness these blossoms, attend cherry blossom festivals or simply enjoy hanami

Cherry blossoms in Japan
Cherry trees in full bloom at Chidorigafuchi Park with recreational boats in Tokyo

What Does Hanami Mean In Japanese?

Hanami is the tradition of viewing and enjoying the beauty of the cherry blossom. It translates as ‘flower viewing’ as it is often a sociable affair in Japanese culture. Across the country, families, friends and colleagues, equipped with picnic boxes and blankets, gather together under cherry blossom trees to eat, drink and be merry. In the evenings, lights and lanterns are laced into branches so the flowers appear to glow in the dark, in a tradition known as yozakura

Where Will The Best Spots Be For Hanami In 2021?

Here are some of the best spots to view cherry blossoms in Japan:

1. Yoshino

Come sakura season, this is probably Japan’s most famous cherry-bloom destination. It’s known for the carpet of blooms that cascade down the mountainsides.

2. Maruyama Park

This park is home to a huge tree, whose blossom-fringed branches are illuminated in the evening from dusk until midnight. Try visiting nearby Mount Yoshino which is covered in over 30,000 cherry trees.

3. Himeji Castle

The striking white wooden walls of this historic castle are the perfect backdrop for the 1,000 cherry trees bursting into life around it.

4. Fuji Five Lakes

These stunning lakes near Mount Fuji are another excellent place to view cherry blossoms. You can also visit the nearby volcanic island of Honshu and take a dip in the bubbling hot spring with silky petals swirling all around.

Cherry blossom trees in bloom in Japan with Mt Fuji in the backdrop
Mt. Fuji, and cherry blossoms in Spring.
5. Hirosaki Castle 

Hirosaki Castle in Aomori is an ancient three-story castle surrounded by a fortified moat and a huge tree-lined park that’s home to an impressive 2,500 cherry trees

6. Tokyo

Tokyo’s Ueno Park has wonderful viewing parties. You can also walk along the Nakameguro River, where vendors set up stalls selling sakura sweets, festival food and pink champagne.

7. Kyoto

Kyoto is famed for its cherry-tree-lined Kamo river promenade. Also visit Maruyama Park, where cherry trees are illuminated at night, or the Philosopher’s Path – a canal path lined with hundreds of cherry trees. 

8. Matsushima Bay

Matsushima Bay is famous for its tree-covered mountainside and bay. Each spring, its 260 cherry trees spring to life, framing the wild landscape with their delicate beauty.

9. Matsumae Park

Matsumae Park is full of historical carvings and Buddhist temples, which perfectly frame the swaying of numerous varieties of cherry blossoms that grow here. 

10. Yokohama Bay

An often overlooked destination, the port city of Yokohama, just south of Tokyo, is a cherry blossom hotspot. Along the bay is Sakura-Dori, a walkway lined with cherry trees. 

Avenue filled with cherry blossom treesWhat Should You Be Aware Of When You Visit?

When you finally get a chance to watch the cherry blossoms in Japan, remember to check if the destination allows hanami. Some places ban it as it ruins the grass. After you’ve picked a place, place your mat or blanket away from the tree roots so as not to damage them. It’s also considered sacrilege to pick flowers or snap any branches so don’t do that. Once you’re done, remember to clean up and deposit all your rubbish in a bin. 

Also Read: 11 Beautiful Places to See Flowers This Spring

Why We Must  Wait Till Next Year To Enjoy The Cherry Blossoms In Japan

Peak cherry blossom season is short. From buds to bloom to the petals falling from the trees, the entire process typically lasts no more than a few weeks. However, the cherry blossoms must wait this year, as most people are advised to stay home and avoid going out. So instead of going out for cherry blossom viewing, why not find ways to enjoy cherry blossoms at home? Watch a film featuring them, or some videos, You could even try some traditional cherry blossomed themed foods! Please stay home and stay safe!

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