Each spring, people wait with bated breath for the first flushes of pink that indicate the blooming of the celebrated cherry blossoms in Japan. Cherry blossoms are an integral part of Japanese culture. The whole county waits with bated breath for the first flushes of pink petals. Usually, the blooms burst into color between March and April (depending on the temperature and weather conditions). Each year the earliest blooms appear in tropical Okinawa around February, and the last ones appear in northern Hokkaido in early May. There are also tons of tree varieties, each blooming at a slightly different time. 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. Here’s everything you need to know about the cherry blossoms in Japan.

cherry blossom time in japan
Cherry blossoms at Meguro Canal in Tokyo

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. It’s scrolled into the swords of the samurai, as a symbol for fallen soldiers, of new beginnings and of friendship.

Cherry blossoms in Japan are such a big deal that even its meteorological department has a service dedicated to forecasting the first blooms. The national news gives daily reports on them and there are festivals held in their honor across the country. Lots of Japanese people eagerly await March and April as a time to witness these blossoms, to attend cherry blossom festivals of Japan or to simply enjoy Hanami.

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 and friends equipped with picnic boxes, gather under cherry blossom trees to eat, drink and make merry. In the evenings, lights and lanterns are laced into branches so the pink flowers appear to glow in the dark. It is a tradition known as Yozakura.

what is hanami festival
Cherry trees in full bloom at Chidorigafuchi Park with recreational boats in Tokyo

Where To See Cherry Blossom In Japan?

There are over 1,000 popular spots across the country from where one can watch Japanese cherry blossoms. Choosing just one best place is tough, so here we have picked some of the best spots to view cherry blossoms in Japan:

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.

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 Japanese cherry trees.

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.

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 hot spring with silky petals swirling all around.

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.

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.

Kyoto

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

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.

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.

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.

What Should You Be Aware Of When You Visit Cherry Blossoms In Japan?

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 spot, 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 waste in a bin.

cherry blossoms in Japan
Mt. Fuji, and cherry blossoms in Spring.

Things To Carry To A Hanami Party In Japan

If you are going for a Hanami Party in Japan, a few preparations in advance can make the cherry blossoms in Japan much more enjoyable. Be it with family or friends, don’t forget to pack the below items!

Picnic Sheet or MatDepending on the size of the group, carry picnic sheets to spread on the spot where you will be enjoying the cherry blossoms in Japan.

Food and DrinksThough there are vendors selling drinks and treats, it’s always good to bring your own food. Do carry some extra food and drinks to share with the other groups, as most likely they will be sharing with you as well.

Easy-To-Eat FoodsCarry easy to eat and easy to handle food as the cleaning and washing can be avoided after eating.

Disposable Plates and Cups After all it’s a small picnic, who wants to waste time cleaning and packing back the utensils. Bringing these will also help in sharing your food and drinks with others.

Paper Towels and Wipes Easiest way to clean up things is with the paper napkins or wipes. Disposing them is also very easy, hence put some in your picnic basket.

A Sweater Or ‘Kairo’ (Hot Pack) – During spring the evenings can get very chill, so carry an extra jacket/sweater or you can also pick up a ‘kairo’ from a medical store. Kairo is a heat pack that will help keep warm while you enjoy cherry blossoms in Japan.

Garbage BagsLast but not the least it’s important to clean up once the Hanami party is over. Dispose of your trash in the dustbin. If you don’t find one, carry your trash back home with you.

Carry a Smile – On a lighter note, always carry a smile on your face, there will be many people to greet and meet.

Some Fun Facts About Cherry Blossoms In Japan

  •         Cherry blossoms also known as “sakura” are Japan’s national flower.
  •         Hanami picnics are more spectacular at night as all the Cherry blossom trees are illuminated with paper lanterns.
  •         According to the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C., flower symbolizes friendship between Japan and the U.S.
  •         The peak bloom time of Cherry Blossom is usually around April 4th.
  •         These flowers are used to make some of the best-selling fragrance in the U.S.
  •         There are approximately 200 different varieties of cherry blossoms.

If you’re planning a trip, club it with the festival of cherry blossoms in Japan for a truly unique experience. Depending on the weather conditions the arrival of cherry blossoms in Japan may vary slightly each year. Don’t expect to see the flowers wherever you go, blooming happens in different places at times. So check for the dates before booking your tickets.

What do cherry blossoms symbolize?

Cherry blossoms are a symbolic flower of the spring that symbolizes an omen of good fortune.

When is the best time to book a holiday to see the cherry blossom?

Between March and April is the best time to see the cherry blossoms in Japan. Book at least 3-4 months in advance to get the best deals.

How long is the cherry blossom season in Japan?

Cherry blossom season lasts for about 2 to 3 weeks, but you can enjoy the cherry blossoms at peak bloom for about one week.

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