Cherry blossom-viewing, or hanami, is a celebration of the ephemeral nature of beauty and life. Sakura trees bloom only once a year, and only for a fleeting moment, but do so with glorious splendor. It's one of the year's most anticipated events in Japan, and the season attracts thousands of foreign visitors every year. If you're planning to experience hanami this year, this guide will help you make the most of it, with the latest forecasts, tips and spot recommendations for popular areas including Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hokkaido and Kyushu.
Full bloom forecast
How to plan your schedule
We recommend planning a 5-7 day trip that includes a variety of hanami spots in your schedule. Because it's peak season in Japan, book your flights as early as possible, and choose hotels that accept early cancellation. That flexibility will come in handy, because you'll be able to make last-minute changes to your itinerary and head elsewhere for hanami if the cherry blossom forecast for your area turns out to be off the mark.
Where to get the latest cherry blossom forecasts
There are two major cherry blossom forecast sites in Japan – Weathermap and Tenki.jp. Both sites begin publishing forecasts around the end of January, with regular updates throughout the week. They're only available in Japanese, but a quick run through Google Translate should do the trick. Check them often for the latest and most accurate information.
1. Weathermap: Offers bloom and weather forecasts by region. 2. Tenki.jp: This site has great recommendations for cherry blossom viewing spots in Japan.
Hanami season glossary
Before we go on a cherry blossom viewing adventure, let’s study some of the more commonly used terms in Japanese!
はなみ (hanami): These two kanji mean ‘flower’ and ‘see’ respectively. In this case, the "flower" mentioned always means cherry blossom
つぼみ (tsubomi): Bud, meaning the cherry blossoms have started budding, but not bloomed.
まんかい (mankai): Used to describe cherry blossom trees that are 80% bloomed, which are regarded as in full bloom.
みごろ (migoro): Meaning "best time to see," when all the flowers are in full bloom. The most stunning moment of the cherry blossom season.
さくらはなふぶき (sakura hanafubuki): To describe the scenery where after the full bloom, the cherry blossoms fall from the branches and gently fall like snowflakes dancing in the breeze.
はざくら (hazakura): The time when the cherry blossom trees start sprouting young green leaves, reaching the last chapter of the cherry blossom season.
Tokyo forecast: March 25 - April 8
Cherry blossom season in Tokyo usually runs from late March to early April. Being the capital, Tokyo has numerous spots for cherry blossom viewing, the most famous ones including Ueno Park, Nakameguro, Shinjuku Gyoen, Chidori-ga-fuchi. Not only can you do hanami, but you can also enjoy special sakura themed bento meals and purchase limited-edition souvenirs. You can also visit the nearby Hakone or Kawaguchiko, and enjoy a dip in the hot springs while viewing the cherry blossoms surrounding Mt. Fuji.
The best time for cherry blossom viewing in Kyoto is early April. Compared to the Tokyo area, there are a lot more variety in the cherry blossom trees here. On a backdrop of beautiful cherry blossoms, the beauty of Kyoto’s many temples and shrines are taken to stunning heights. We recommend taking a stroll along the tranquil Kamo River lined with sakura trees, watching the Arashiyama line train passing through the famous cherry blossom tunnel, or heading to Maruyama Park for its Gion's Night-time Sakura illuminations.
Every year from the end of March to mid-April, cherry blossom trees around the Kansai region start blooming, and Osaka is no exception. There are many great destinations for cherry blossom viewing here, such as Nishinomaru Garden in the Osaka Castle Park, the cherry blossom boulevard of Osaka Mint Bureau (Zoheikyoku) or Himeji Castle an hour away by car from Osaka. Soaking in the amazing sight of cherry blossoms in full bloom and experiencing the romantic spring of Japan is one of the best ways to spend your vacation in Osaka.
A journey by train across Kyushu is one of the best ways to travel around this region, so why not take the limited trains and explore Kyushu? Nishi Park in Fukuoka's city center, Nagasaki Omura Park and Kumamoto Castle are three of the top 100 hanami spots in Japan. According to the current forecast, the best place and time for cherry blossom viewing in Fukuoka is March 26th, Nagasaki and Kumamoto March 27th, while the Bettei Itsuki Onsen Town area, where Oita and Miyajima are located, is expected to start blooming on March 31st.
Cherry blossoms in Japan bloom from South to North, so Hokkaido, located at the northernmost part of Japan, typically sees its cherry blossom trees bloom only in early May. The popular hanami spots there mainly concentrate around the Sapporo Maruyama Park, Goryoukaku Park and Otaru Park. Matsumae Park's cherry blossom tunnel in Hokuto City, is also one of the top favorites. One thing to note is that Hokkaido during the cherry blossom season is typically packed with travelers, due to the Japanese Golden Week holiday that starts from late April to early March, so we suggest planning your trip here as early as possible.
To celebrate the hanami season, we’re giving away four lucky people a limited-edition, Japan-exclusive sakura Starbucks tumbler! This hugely popular series is usually sold out within hours, but with our deft ninja skills, we managed to get our hands on some just for you.
For a chance to win one, just leave a comment below telling us what your dream hanami spot in Japan is!
Thank you to everyone who participated – the response was overwhelming! We wish we had one for each of you, but we had to pick four lucky winners, and they are...
Belinda Ann, Harold Godsoe, Kristin Choy and Thyna Vu!
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