With the end of winter approaching and the first signs of spring in the air, it is time to start getting excited about the upcoming cherry blossom season! Locally called “sakura,” the cherry blossoms are some of the most anticipated flowers in the country; all around parks, temples, and even streets are thousands of trees that bloom with these charming pink blossoms every year in early spring.
Depending on where you will be this cherry blossom season, the sakura will bloom at a slightly different time. The south of the country is where you will see the earliest sakura which can bloom as early as February, moving up the country to Hokkaido by May. The actual dates of the cherry blossoms’ arrival vary slightly year by year. The Japan Weather Association has helpfully provided a forecast so you can make your plans accordingly and not miss this very special time of year!
Sakura season brings “hanami,” (picnicking underneath the cherry blossom trees to view and celebrate the blossoms), sakura-themed food from cafes and restaurants, and areas that are a photographer’s dream! It is a very special time of year that symbolizes the end of winter and new beginnings. In old Japan, it was said that these few weeks of sakura are the time when the gods come down to Earth.
The Japanese care deeply about this short time and there are not many places that don’t have at least one great spot to see the cherry blossoms and perhaps have a “hanami” (cherry blossom viewing) party.
Kyushu will see the earliest signs of sakura. It looks like March 19th is the date when the flowers will start blooming in Kagoshima and Miyazaki. Fukuoka will start seeing flowers from the 20th, and on the 22nd in Nagasaki, Kumamoto, and Oita. Those in Saga can expect to see sakura a few days later, on the 25th.
Shikoku is next on the list, with the first signs of cherry blossoms appearing in Kochi on the 20th. Ehime, Kagawa, and Tokushima will see blossoms from the 25th, 26th, and 27th, respectively.
Cherry blossoms will start to bloom in the city of Hiroshima on the 22nd, the 24th in Yamaguchi, the 27th in Okayama, the 30th in Shimane, and the 31st in Tottori.
Moving on to the Kinki region, Wakayama can expect to see sakura as early as the 24th March, followed by Osaka on the 25th, Kyoto on the 26th, Hyogo and Nara on the 27th and the 28th. Shiga will see sakura a little later, on the 1st April.
In Aichi Prefecture, including Nagoya, you will find cherry blossoms from the 20th March. Gifu and Shizuoka will both bloom on the 21st, and Mie on the 24th.
This region won’t see any cherry blossoms at all until April. Look for sakura from the 4th in Fukui, the 5th in Ishikawa, and the 6th in Toyama. Niigata won’t see any blossoms until the 10th.
Those in Kanto can expect to start to see cherry blossoms in late March. In Tokyo, they will start to bloom on the 18th, followed by Kanagawa on the 22nd, and Yamanashi and Saitama from the 24th. Gunma Prefecture will start to see blossoms from the 27th, and Ibaraki and Tochigi will see them from the 30th. Finally, Nagano Prefecture can expect to start to see sakura from the 11th April.
People in Tohoku will have to wait until April to see Japan’s favourite flowers. The cherry blossoms will start blooming on the 8th in Fukushima, the 9th in Miyagi, and the 16th in Yamagata. Those in Iwate can start looking for sakura on the 19th, Akita on the 20th, and Aomori on the 24th.
Hokkaido, as the coldest and most northern prefecture of Japan, gets the cherry blossoms latest. If you are in Hakodate, you can start to see the sakura on the 30th April. The flowers will bloom from the 3rd May in Sapporo, and the 5th in Muroran.
Depending on the place, the cherry blossoms can last from up to a few days to a few weeks between the start (kaika) and the full bloom (mankai).
Cherry blossoms can be enjoyed in several ways. You could get up early and grab the best spot in a city park with a picnic sheet to eat, drink, and enjoy the happy atmosphere all day with your friends. You can also visit a temple, absorbing the spiritual and historical atmosphere while the petals float around you. There are also many spots, such as around Mt. Fuji, where cherry blossom trees have been planted especially for gorgeous panoramic views.
What the people around you plan to do depends on the area. In Tokyo, large, sprawling parks are filled with hanami partyers, Kyoto is the place to be for breathtaking temple views, and Shizuoka and Yamanashi offer photogenic views of Mt. Fuji and surrounding mountains.
Below are some highly recommended places where you can go and enjoy the sakura.
Isshingyo Osakura in Kumamoto
Kumamoto Castle in Kumamoto
Nishi Park in Fukuoka
Tateyama Park in Nagasaki
Shiudeyama in Kagawa
Kinbuchi Forest Park in Kagawa
Hirakiyama Park in Ehime
Senkoji Park in Hiroshima
Tsuyama Castle in Okayama
Matsue Jozan Park in Shimane
Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto
Arashiyama in Kyoto
Izu Kogen Sakura Namiki in Shizuoka
Takatojoshi Park in Nagano
Meguro River in Tokyo
Ueno Park in Tokyo
Mitsuike Park in Yokohama, Kanagawa
Hachimanyama Park in Utsunomiya, Tochigi
Mihara Takizakura in Fukushima
Hirosaki Park in Aomori
Kakunodate-machi in Aomori
Shiroishi River in Miyagi
Goryokaku in Hakodate
Shibazakura Takinoue in Monbetsu
Nakajima Park in Sapporo
With some preparation and research, there is no reason why you can’t fully experience the exciting cherry blossom season this spring in Japan! This yearly event is one of the most treasured times of year that is loved by both local people and visitors. Keep an eye on this 2018 sakura forecast, figure out where you’re going to be, and make some plans for an unforgettable time and fantastic photographs. Make the most of this sakura season and celebrate like a local!