Why You Should Visit Japan During Cherry Blossom Season

I was sorting my photos from my recent trip to Japan and something struck me – cherry blossom season in Japan is EVERYTHING. The trees are omnipresent in over half of my photos, and there’s no denying that it gives the country a slightly romantic appeal, an ephemeral look that is quite difficult to resist. The photos I shared on my Facebook page during the trip were some of my most liked photos ever!

I normally avoid posting time-sensitive articles months and months in advance, preferring pertinent timing over viral opportunity. However, in this case, I feel it is wiser to overlook this rule, for two reasons: 1, the photos are too gorgeous not to be shared immediately, and 2, airfare to Japan can be astonishingly expensive and is best booked sooner rather than later.

cherry blossom season

When Should You Go?

Now, planning a trip to Japan for the cherry blossom season can be a tricky affair. The blossoming is entirely determined by two things: the first one being the weather, which as we all know, is highly unpredictable (sorry, weather experts of the world). The milder the weather in the weeks leading up to spring, the earlier the cherry trees will bloom. The second reason is the longitude: Japan being a somewhat vertical country, blossom will normally start in the southernmost parts of the country where it is warmest and slowly ripple its way up north. For example, Kyoto and Osaka will be in season well before Sapporo is.

Blooming season is relatively shot – lasting roughly two weeks, give or take, between the opening of the first blossoms, full bloom and the moment were blooms fall off the trees. Strong wind and rain can cut the blooming season even shorter.

As a general rule, cherry blossom season starts in late March in the south and lasts until mid-May in the north. This notion of geographical location needs to be examined very closely when trying to work out an itinerary for your trip – foregoing this crucial step may end up in sore disappointment once on location.

Here are a few average full bloom dates according to Japan Weather Association for key cities around Japan:

  • Kanazawa: April 11
  • Tokyo: April 5
  • Kyoto: April 7
  • Osaka: April 6
  • Sapporo: May 8
  • Naha: February 4

Cherry Blossom Season – Tokyo

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cherry blossom season
 
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Cherry Blossom Season – Kyoto

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Cherry Blossom Season – Himeji Castle

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Cherry Blossom Season in Japan: Know Before You Go

  • A Japan Rail Pass is a very good idea if you intend on criss-crossing the country in search of the best hanami spots.
  • What is hanami, you ask? It’s the Japanese word for the activity of “cherry blossom viewing”. The fact that they have a word for it is a good indication of just how important the season is for the Japanese.
  • Consequently, crowds are to be expected. Not only Japanese, but other tourists as well, especially from Korea and China. Cherry blossom season is the peak of tourist season for Japan.
  • A reminder of why I chose to publish this now: airfare and accommodation should be booked well in advance in order to avoid either disappointment or a rates you can’t afford. For example: when I got to Kyoto’s Tourist Office on March 25th, there was a huge “No vacancies in Kyoto” sign in the window; not a single hotel room available in all of Kyoto for the next seven nights. In nearby Osaka, rooms were all over $400 per night. Book as far in advance as you possibly can.
  • Most hotels in Japan have easy cancellation policies and few require deposits. I suggest you make reservations as soon as possible and change them later on if you have to; best to be safe than sorry (or homeless, in this case).

Have you been to Japan during cherry blossom season? What was your favorite hanami spot?

Disclaimer: I toured Japan with a complimentary Japan Rail Pass. All opinions are my own. 
 

13 Comments on Why You Should Visit Japan During Cherry Blossom Season

  1. Jennifer
    April 21, 2015 at 6:38 pm (2 years ago)

    Holy moly! That’s amazing! I knew it was gorgeous but didn’t think there were so many. On my bucketlist (as if it’s not long enough already!)

    Reply
  2. Sheri
    March 15, 2016 at 4:43 am (1 year ago)

    Gorgeous post! I can’t wait to see this in a few weeks! Great photos.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      March 15, 2016 at 5:23 pm (1 year ago)

      Thanks Sheri! Hope you get a good blossom season.

      Reply
  3. Haru
    March 15, 2016 at 7:43 pm (1 year ago)

    Hello, I’m so glad I found your blog :) I have a question with regards to the Rail Pass in early April. I’m visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Mount Fuji, Nara, Nikko etc, and I’ll be in Japan for 12 days total. I was wondering whether to get a 7 or 14 day pass, and also whether to get normal or green class, as everyone is saying how packed it’ll be during the first two weeks. The last thing I want to do is have my mum stand for entire journeys with a lot of luggage. What do you think? Thank you

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      March 17, 2016 at 11:48 am (1 year ago)

      If you plan on using the train every day, then a 14-day pass would be best. Frankly I travelled in Japan in normal class during peak cherry tree season and I only felt cramped once or twice. I wouldn’t splurge on a green class pass for the sake of having more room. Japanese people are very, very polite, and if for some reason there are no seats available, someone will give up their seat for your mother. Safe travels!

      Reply
  4. Lynne
    April 14, 2016 at 8:57 am (1 year ago)

    I just came back from visiting my son in Japan . The cherry blossoms were amazing,the best viewing was in ueno park in Tokyo. The cherry blossoms cover the walk ways and watching the petals fly around off the trees was beautiful. It looked like pink snow. Went to Kyoto but trees hadn’t blossomed yet

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 25, 2016 at 12:59 pm (1 year ago)

      Yes I remember the park well! Gorgeous place. Loved seeing all the Japanese people gathering under trees to celebrate hanami!

      Reply
  5. faiqa
    June 8, 2016 at 4:55 am (12 months ago)

    Tokoya kayotoare same or different
    ?

    Reply
  6. Patrick
    January 5, 2017 at 9:44 am (5 months ago)

    Great post, with beautiful pics! And yes, definitely book in advance, 3 months at least (for Tokyo and, most important, Kyoto). I think one should see Japan in both cherry blossom season and in another time of the year (I like winter, which often has blue skies), Kyoto seems a different city.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 17, 2017 at 12:53 pm (4 months ago)

      I’ve been dying to see it in the fall!

      Reply

3Pingbacks & Trackbacks on Why You Should Visit Japan During Cherry Blossom Season

  1. […] gotten back from Japan a few weeks prior I didn’t expect much as far as blooming trees go (how much better could it get, I thought) but I was positively floored by the beauty and tranquility of the […]

  2. […] More recently, I travelled to Japan (literally halfway across the world from where I live, so it wasn’t a wise decision by any means at the time) just to see the famous cherry blossoms, which are only worthwhile a few days out of the whole year and can be notoriously difficult to predict. There are no guarantees as to how plentiful the cherry trees will be or even when they will actually bloom. And to add fuel to the proverbial fire, I had just signed on a very expensive mortgage the night before I received an email blast alerting me to the cheapest fares I’d ever seen for Tokyo. Nevertheless, I refused to think twice about it as I knew an opportunity such as this one wasn’t likely to present itself again anytime soon. I impulsively booked a ticket because I knew this was something I wanted to tick off my bucket list — and as you can imagine, I have zero regrets. In addition to discovering a new-to-me country that I am now obsessed with, the blossoms turned out to be rather spectacular that year. […]

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