Seeing Sakura bloom in Japan is on everyone’s bucket-list. Here’s a complete travel guide on where and when to see Cherry Blossoms in Japan in 2024.
As nature’s original Instagram bait starts blanketing your timeline, your dream to experience the Sakura bloom (cherry blossoms) in Japan gets bigger with every update. Here is a complete travel guide on where and when to see Cherry Blossoms in Japan from South to North in 2024.
Japan is synonymous with Shinkansen, Sushi, Samurai, and Skyscrapers, but the most iconic image of Japan is the sea of cherry blossom trees. Like most travellers, I, too, was smitten by the pink dream. So, after many wasted springs, I finally booked a trip to Japan to see Nature’s limited Art show.
I didn’t know Japan’s reverence for Sakura Bloom spans centuries until I spoke to my host, Takashi. From as early as the eighth century, elite imperialists would pause to appreciate the Sakura bloom (cherry blossoms) before indulging in Hanami (Cherry blossom viewing picnics) and relishing the poetry sessions beneath the blooms. Fast-forward to the modern-day, and the flowers are still revered.
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Hanami in Tokyo
At the onset of spring, when the trees turn pink, the old and the young grab their picnic blankets and rush to the parks to take photos, drink sake (Japanese liquor), nosh munchies, gulp their Sakura-themed bento lunches and relax under the paper-thin pink cherry blooms. It’s like a carnival with food stalls, LIVE music and games. Sakura is the best time to try out Japanese food like sakura mochi (sticky rice cake), white and pink miso (soybean sauce), pink onigiri (rice balls), red bean treats, tamagoyaki (a rolled egg omelette with sugar and soy sauce), taoyaki (octopus balls), grilled clams and taiyaki (fish-shaped cakes filled with custard and chocolate). I discovered all this and a lot more during my first Hanami experience in Tokyo.
On my first day in Tokyo, my local friend warned me that if I wanted to see Sakura, then I should wake up early, and like an obedient child, I obeyed. But I was not alone in arriving early. I had to make my way through the epic-sized elbow-to-elbow crowds to admire the 1,000-plus blooming cherry blossom trees of the Ueno Park, one of Japan’s oldest and most famous public spaces in Tokyo (also home to many top museums, shrines, and ponds).
Sometimes, I walked along the pathways. Sometimes, I stood under the branches laden with soft white, pink, and magenta blooms. The wind would blow, and I would get showered in the Sakura snow. The fluffy, gorgeous blossoms were everywhere – on trees, in the air, on pathways, on benches and on the ground. It felt surreal like I was in a pink wonderland with the occasional Japanese shrine or statue peeking through the pink and white clouds of flowers.
It wasn’t just the parks, shrines or castles celebrating Sakura. Retailers, too, were in Sakura mode – markets draped in plastic cherry blossoms, cafes and restaurants served Sakura-inspired foods and drinks, 7x11s were filled with Sakura innovations, beauty counters were lined with cherry blossom scented lotions, Sakura front (television updates) announced the dates of Sakura travel from south to north.
While I was absorbing all this, Takashi, my local friend, asked me if I knew why Hanami is such a big deal in Japan. Obviously, I didn’t have a clue. And that’s when he revealed the deep connection the Japanese have with the short-and-sweet season,
The ephemeral nature of Sakura blossoms lasting only for two weeks is symbolic of the Japanese spirit. In the days of the samurai, Sakura represented the short life of a warrior often cut off in its prime. In today’s Japan, Sakura serves as a reminder of the power of nature, the fragility and the beauty of life. It’s a reminder that life is overwhelmingly beautiful but precariously short too. Therefore you should make the most out of it as it lasts.
In a nutshell, the cherry blossoms are not just pretty pink flowers; they are the floral embodiment of Japan’s most deep-rooted cultural and philosophical beliefs.
After understanding the true essence of Hanami and enjoying it during the day, it was time to enjoy the Night Hanami. If you thought cherry blossoms during the day are a gorgeous sight, night blossoms are outright spectacular thanks to intricate lighting and festive lanterns that bring out the exoticness of the blossoms in the darkness of night. It was not a dream but a reality better than dream. A feeling that many poets, painters, filmmakers, and writers have tried to replicate for centuries but failed.
The days passed, and the fragile, cheery blossoms in Tokyo started to bid adieu. But I wasn’t ready for the goodbye yet. I wanted to see more. So I decided to follow them up North to the volcanic Aomori Prefecture and Hokkaido.
Hanami in Tohoku
The best way to travel in Japan is by a bullet train that passes through the scenic landscapes, where it is possible to lose sight of all the tourists. The four hours of the train journey from Tokyo to Hirosaki by Tohoku Shinkansen (bullet train) and a local train didn’t seem long. I was really enjoying the Sakura view from my window.
But I was in for a bigger surprise at Hirosaki, where 400-year-old Hirosaki Castle was surrounded by approximately 2,600 of Japan’s most perfect-looking cherry trees, including more than 300 trees over 100 years old. A clear blue sky with cottony white clouds and majestic mountains was the perfect backdrop for the dazzlingly blooming cherry blossoms. I had never seen anything more alluring than what I was seeing. Hypnotised by the view, I whispered to the Japanese couple standing next to me, “How come the cherry blossom trees here are so picture-perfect?”
Hirosaki Castle area is famous for its apple orchards,” explained the couple. “So after the locals perfected a pruning technique for their apple trees, they carried it on to the cherries—it makes the trees in this area bloom spectacularly. The cherries here have twice as many petals as anywhere else, thanks to the special cultivation method.
So here is my tip. If you have to pick one place for cherry blossom viewing, pick Hirosaki in Aomori Prefecture, one of the best spots for cherry blossoms in Japan.
Hanami in Hokkaido
If you have missed seeing the cherry blossoms in the south or centre, then Hokkaido is your best bet. Though I had relished my share of Sakura bloom, I still wanted to chase them up north. So I continued my onward journey to Hakodate and Sapporo in Hokkaido.
The best place to view cherry blossoms in Hakodate is the Hakodate Tower, where hundreds of cherry blossom trees have been planted in the star-shaped Goryokaku Park, where a castle once stood. I didn’t have time to visit the nearby Matsumae castle, which I was told isn’t as impressive as Hirosaki but is less crowded.
My last stop was Hokkaido’s main city of Sapporo, which was awash with cherry blossoms (Maruyama Park and Hokkaido-jingu shrine in particular). The interesting thing about Sapporo is you can enjoy Sakura views while skiing since the official skiing season lasts until May.
Travelling to Japan in its peak season was a bit expensive but the most beautiful experience I have ever had. The cherry blossom season is ephemeral and fleeting, so mark your calendars and book your flights now before it’s too late!
In Hokkaido, during late spring, a different type of sakura called shiba zakura steals the show. Unlike the pink flowers on trees, shiba zakura is a ground cover with small pink, white, and purple flowers that create a stunning carpet-like effect. Visitors can witness this natural masterpiece in Eastern Hokkaido from May to June.
Higashi Mokoto Shiba Zakura Park, situated among rolling hills, is a must-visit in May and June. The park is adorned with bright pink moth phlox flowers, creating a picturesque backdrop for photographs.
Shibazakura Takinoue Park is another place visitors should not miss during the Shibazakura Festival, which runs from early May to early June. The park is covered in vibrant pink flowers, offering a stunning view.
Where & When to see Cherry Blossom in Japan in 2024
Most people planning to visit Japan during Cherry Blossom season will have one question on their mind – “What month is the cherry blossom in Japan?”
The cherry blossom travels like a wave from South to North, blooming as early as February in Okinawa, peaking in Tokyo and Kyoto in end of March and reaching Hokkaido by the end of April.
Cherry blossom season in Japan for 2024 is expected to peak from late March to early April, particularly in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. The official forecast was updated by the Japan Meteorological Corporation on February 15, 2024.
- Okinawa – Flowering: January 18/ Full bloom: February 10 at Yogi Park & Nakijin Castle
- Fukuoka – Flowering: March 21 / Full bloom: March 31 at Fukuoka Castle & Atago Shrine
- Osaka – Flowering: March 25 / Full bloom: April 2 at Osaka Castle Park & Kema Sakuranomiya Park
- Nara – Flowering: March 20 / Full bloom: 1 April at Nara Park & Heijo Palace
- Hiroshima – Flowering: March 24 / Full bloom: April 2 at Shukkein Garden and Hiroshima Castle
- Kyoto – Flowering: March 23 / Full bloom: April 1 at Philosopher’s Path & Heian Shrine
- Tokyo – Flowering: March 19 / Full bloom: March 26 at Ueno Park, Shinjuku Gyoen National & Yoyogi Park
- Fukushima – Flowering: April 3/ Full Bloom: April 6 at Hanamiyama Park & Shinobuyama Park
- Aomori – Flowering: April 17/ Full Bloom: April 22 at Hirosaki Castle & Ashino Chishogun Prefectural Natural Park
- Sendai – Flowering: April 4 / Full bloom: April 10 at Nishi Koen and Tsutsujigaoka Park.
- Hakodate – Flowering: April 26 / Full bloom: May 3 at Goryokaku, Matsumae Castle
- Sapporo – Flowering: April 30 / Full bloom: May 4 at Odori Park
How long do the cherry blossoms last in Japan?
Cherry blossoms in Japan usually last about two weeks from the start of their bloom to peak bloom.
What to carry
Dress in warm clothes (spring can be chilly in Japan) and comfortable shoes. Bring along a blanket to sit on in the park and pick up a delicious Hanami Bento Box and drinks from a convenience store. Reach early and find a spot under a cherry blossom tree. Voila, you are ready to enjoy Hanami!
Sakura – Cherry blossom
Kirei – Beautiful
Sakura, kirei desu ne – Isn’t the cherry blossom beautiful?
Kanpai – Cheers!
Itadekimasu – Lets eat
Arigato gozaimasu – Thank you
Have you been to Japan in the Spring season? How was your experience?