Japanese Cherry Blossom Guide

Japanese Cherry Blossom Guide Sakura Season in Japan 2023

The Japanese cherry blossom season is just one symbol of many of Japan’s cultural beliefs.  The cherry trees bloom for a short period of time, sometimes just 5-7 days, and this period echoes the passing of time in a short life.  Cherry blossoms are deeply significant in Japan – you’ll find them in poems, paintings, food and drinks, and yes even in Starbucks.  Cherry blossoms, or Sakura, have been revered for centuries.

Today in modern Japan they continue to be respected and admired.  There are picnics, festivals, and televised forecasts of the “Cherry Blossom Front”, as it sweeps through the nation from south to north.  Retailers too revere the humble Sakura – pink takes over stores, cherry blossom flavorings take over foodstuffs and drinks

Cherry Blossoms in Japan are deeply symbolic.  The short-lived blossom is a symbol of new beginnings and the start of the rice-planting season.  Of the Spring season and both the new financial and academic year, which, in Japan occurs on April 1st.  In this guide you’ll find our recommendations for the best time to visit Japan for Cherry Blossoms, what you can expect in the Japan Cherry Blossom season, and our complete sakura guide.


Japanese Sakura and Hanami – A Brief Overview

What is Sakura?

Sakura is the Japanese for the flower – the blossoms of the cherry tree.  The most common is the Japanese Cherry tree.

What is Sakura in Japanese?

Sakura in Japanese is 桜 or 櫻; さくら.  The Japanese word for cherry blossom comes from the cherry tree Prunus serrulata,

Japanese Cherry Blossoms Mountains
Source: Live Less Ordinary

When do Cherry Blossoms bloom in Japan?

You can expect a cherry blossom bloom in Japan, depending on the weather conditions from the middle of March to the beginning of May.  So, the best time to see cherry blossoms in Japan depends on both the weather conditions and the location in Japan that you are visiting.

There are entire sites dedicated to when the sakura is due to bloom, although the best and most accurate is the Japanese Meteorological Society site, which tracks the full cherry blossom season in Japan each year.

A full cherry blossom prediction is provided for 48 cities and areas so that you can maximize your sakura viewing in Japan.

Traditional Japanese Cherry Blossom Art

You don’t have to visit Japan during the sakura season to see cherry blossoms – many famous cherry blossom paintings are available to see.  Here’s a selection of the best.

The Cherry Blossom Front – Sakura Zensen

Since 1951 a team of meteorologists has monitored what’s called the Sakura Zensen – the Cherry Blossom front as it sweeps from the south of the country to the north.  The entire process is televised and avidly watched, Sakura of Japan is a big thing!

It is the Yoshino Cherry Tree that is monitored – this is Japan’s most common type of cherry tree.

The cherry blossom viewing season is declared open when 5 or 6 flowers have opened on a random sample tree in a given area.  In England, you’ll find the Big Bluebell Watch – the flower that heralds Spring in the country of my birth.  Check out details of this and 20 facts about Bluebells

Sakura Snow

The trees blossom only for one to two weeks when the “Sakura Snow” falls, it’s the term given to when the blossoms begin to fall from the trees.

What is Hanami?

Hanami is Japanese for “Flower Viewing”, although the terms Hanami and Sakura are often used interchangeably.    It is traditional in Japan to take to the parks and outside spaces during the Cherry Blossom season.  Hanami festivals or Cherry Blossom viewing festivals are found in many places.  A cherry blossom festival in Japan or a Hanami festival will have Sakura-themed food, sake, and music.

The Hanami tradition stretches back to the Nara Period (710-794), and while it has generally been used to refer to the cherry blossom viewing festivals and parties, the term is also used to cover plum and wisteria blossom viewing.  The Japanese believed that the sakura trees contained spirits and so made offers with rice wine.  This is what became the Hanami party and festival.

You will find a hanami in parks, gardens, along riverbanks, and inside castles.  They can occur in the daytime or in the evening.

How to see Japanese Cherry Blossom from Home

Check out these resources to see the Japanese cherry blossom from your sofa.

Virtual Japan from the Japanese National Tourist Board

Japan’s tourist board sakura – cherry blossom video

Japan Weather News Sakura Viewing from Home

Explore Nationwide Japanese cherry Blossom views from the weather news service in Japan – you can see a range of videos here.

Watch Japanese Webcam coverage from Cherry Blossom Season

How to Experience the Best Cherry Blossom in Japan

Experiencing Japan’s Cherry Blossom with a professional guide, whether it’s in central Tokyo or Kyoto is a truly awesome experience.  You’ll not only get to see the spots that only the locals head to, but you can join in sakura picnics and understand much more about the cultural aspects and actually experience them as well.  Why not book a professional guide to accompany you while you experience Sakura?  Check your options here.

When to see Cherry Blossom in Japan

It’s the most common question – When Do the Cherry Blossoms bloom in Japan?  The answer – it depends!   And how long is the Japan Sakura Season?  Again, it depends!  The Cherry Blossom forecast begins in January of each year in Japan.   The Cherry Blossom viewing season begins in Okinawa in the south of the Japanese archipelago of islands and works its way north to Hokkaido.

When the Cherry Blossom begins depends on metrological conditions.    You can experience a Hanami, or Cherry Blossom festival as early as the end of January in Okinawa.  Trees blossom in the middle of Japan in March and April and you may see a late bloom in Hokkaido in May.

The higher altitude locations have a later bloom date.    Blooms are usually seen in Tokyo in the last days of March, followed by Kyoto and the Matsumoto Sakura two weeks after that.   These dates are all dependent upon the weather conditions.

Expected 2023 Dates for the Cherry Blossom bloom in Japan are:

  • Fukuoka – Flowering on March 17; Full bloom on March 27
  • Tokyo – Flowering on March 20; Full bloom on March 27
  • Hiroshima – Flowering on March 21; Full bloom on March 29
  • Nagoya – Flowering on March 22; Full bloom on March 30
  • Osaka – Flowering on March 23; Full bloom on March 30
  • Kyoto – Flowering on March 24; Full bloom on March 30
  • Kanazawa – Flowering on March 30; Full bloom on April 5
  • Sendai – Flowering on April 8; Full bloom on April 11
  • Sapporo – Flowering on April 23; Full bloom on April 25

For the most up-to-date forecast, head on over to the Japan Meteorological Corporation – and check out the Cherry Blossom Front.

Top 10 places to see Cherry Blossom in Japan

While it’s possible to see Sakura throughout Japan, where you see the Cherry Blossom will depend on when you visit.  And you’ll need to be following the Sakura Zensen closely to make sure that you don’t miss the season in your chosen spot.

It is one of the busiest times of the year to travel in Japan, and you’d be wise to book well in advance, follow the forecast and keep your fingers crossed.

1) Himeji Castle Cherry Blossom, Hyogo Prefecture

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Himeji Castle is one of our top castles to see in Japan at any time of year.  It’s one of Japan’s original 12 castles and is the largest and most impressive, having survived earthquakes, wars, and fires.  The castle grounds have hundreds of cherry trees, and it’s easy to navigate.   It’s also important to note that most Japanese castles are surrounded by cherry trees, so if Himeji isn’t on your agenda, just head for another castle! > Check out some of the incredible Japanese castles we visited while traveling Japan.

When to see Sakura at Himeji in 2023:    Early April

Closest JR Station:                                  Himeji Station (10-minute walk)

What else to see:                                    Himeji Castle is stunning

2) Kyoto Cherry Blossom, Kyoto Prefecture

At any time of the year, Kyoto is beautiful. However, as the cherry blossoms start to appear on the trees, this historic city becomes even more vibrant.  The most significant parts of Kyoto are the temples, gardens, and castle that have been collectively designated as a World Heritage Site. Throughout most of these locations, you will find cherry blossom trees, their spring colors blending with the richly-painted buildings. To enjoy the Sakura in Kyoto, you only need to visit the sites you would likely be going to see anyway.

If you are particularly interested in cherry blossoms, then I think Kiyomizu-Dera Temple has the best ones. It is also one of the best spots for sunset in Kyoto.

Kyoto-Sakura-Turtle Japanese Cherry Blossom
Source: Time Travel Turtle

There are 17 locations that are part of the Kyoto World Heritage Site. If you are interested in just seeing the highlights, I would suggest you visit Nijo-Jo Castle, Ninna-Ji Temple, Ryoan-Ji Temple, and Kiyomizu-Dera Temple. You can see all of them in just one day and they’ll give you an excellent sense of the variety of what Kyoto offers.

When to see Sakura in Kyoto in 2023:         March 23 2023

Closest JR Station:                                     Kyoto Station

What else to see:                                       Nijo-Jo Castle, Ninna-Ji Temple, Ryoan-Ji Temple

Sakura viewing in Kyoto is recommended by Michael Turtle of Time Travel Turtle and this content was provided by him.  His suggestions for what else to do in Kyoto are to visit the Kyoto World Heritage Temples and Shrines.

Please do follow Time Travel Turtle on Facebook and Instagram.

3) Nikko Cherry Blossom, Tochigi Prefecture

Nikko is a small, but significant, mountain town in Japan’s Tochigi Prefecture. It can be reached from Tokyo on a two-hour scenic train ride.  Nikko is one of the best sites in the country to view some of Japan’s glorified architectural treasures. Its temples and shrines are protected as a UNESCO Heritage Site. There are a few famous temples here, such as the Toshogu and Futarasan Shrines.  Find out more to do in Nikko in our Things to Do in Nikko Guide here

There’s a well-known Japanese saying “Never say ‘kekkō’ (beautiful) until you’ve seen Nikkō” – which is an accurate description that captures the essence of this place.

Source: The Round The World Guys

Due to its higher elevation in the mountains, the cherry blossom season in Nikko runs a few weeks later than it does in the rest of Japan. It is a highly-celebrated season, and tourist information centres provide town maps that highlight the best trees to view. During this time, everything is lit up throughout the night for visitors and locals to enjoy.

For hiking lovers, there are a few amazing trails surrounding the Nikko sakura landscape to view some of the Sakura trees. Ancient tombs, temples, and shrines, dotted with blossoming cherry trees, are a must-see.

Stay in Nikko: The Nikko Kanaya Hotel – this is the oldest resort-style hotel in Japan.    Famous for attracting international visitors such as Albert Einstein, Charles Lindbergh, and Eleanor Roosevelt it has old-school charm with leather chaired lounges, modern rooms with a traditional style, and a fabulous restaurant.  Even if you don’t stay, lunch or dinner here is an incredible experience.  Check availability and book your experience here now

When to see Sakura at Nikko in 2023:       Usually at End of March, Early April

Closest JR Station:                                    Nikko Station

What else to see:                                      Ancient tombs, temples & shrines, abundant hiking trails

Sakura viewing in Nikko is recommended by Halef Gunawan of The Round the World Guys and this content was provided by him.  His suggestions for what else to do in Nikko are to visit the tombs, temples, and shrines and check out the many hiking trails.  Please do follow The Round The World Guys on Instagram and YouTube.

4) Morioka Cherry Blossom – Takamatsu Pond, Hyogo Prefecture

For those late to the early sakura blooms in southern and central areas, there are always opportunities for late spring in the northern regions of Honshu. And Morioka would be one of the better when the local sakura festivals take place between mid-to-late April.

To reach Morioka there is a direct train from Tokyo following the high-speed JR Shinkansen north to the central transit hub of Morioka. From there one of the more scenic and lesser-known parks is Takamatsu Pond, reached by a 5-minute taxi drive, or local bus (E01. 220 yen) which stops across the road from the park. A path opposite then leads to a serene lake, surrounded by sakura blooms, lots of wildlife, and snowy hills in the backdrop.

Morioka Japan Cherry Blossoms
Source: Live Less Ordinary

This is very much a local and off-the-beaten-track park, but during sakura season there will be regional crowds and a festival-like atmosphere with lots of snack stalls. There are also many nearer sakura sight-seeing spots to the station with Morioka Castle, Takamatsu Park, and Kitakami Park.

When to see Morioka Sakura in 2023 :              Mid-Late April

Closest JR Station:                                           Morioka Station

What else to see:                                             Morioka Castle, Hanami Festival

Sakura viewing in Morioka is recommended by Allan Wilson of Live Less Ordinary and this content was provided by him.  Please do follow Allan and Live Less Ordinary on Facebook.

5) Matsumoto Cherry Blossom, Nagano Prefecture

My favorite spot to see Japan’s famous cherry blossom is actually Matsumoto. The city is located in the center of the Nagano Prefecture. Usually, tourists come here to visit the famous Matsumoto Castle and its cute historic street. During Nagano Sakura, Japan’s official word for cherry blossom, however, the entire area around the Matsumoto castle turns into an open-air picnic area.

Cherry Blossom_Matsumoto_Japan (1)
Source: Travellers Archive

Japanese families, groups, and friends come here to eat, drink and make music together. Apart from the fact that the castle itself is super interesting to visit, watching the locals doing their traditional ‘hanami’, meaning celebrating the cherry blossom, is simply special. Bring some snacks and drinks, sit down on one of the benches and simply enjoy.

When to see Sakura at Matsumoto 2023: 7th + April

Closest JR Station:                                 Matsumoto Station

What else to see:                                   Stunning Matsumoto Castle

Sakura viewing in Matsumoto is recommended by Clemens Sehi of Travellers Archive and this content was provided by him.  Please do follow Clemens and Travellers Archive on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

6) Fuji Five Lakes Cherry Blossom at Lake Kawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture

Combine the majesty of Fuji, the beauty of the Cherry Blossom, and the magical Lake Kawaguchiko cherry blossom and you have a perfect storm for any photograph and Sakura viewing experience.  One of the best places to see this combination is in the Fuji Five Lakes area.  You’ll want to head to the northern shores of Lake Kawaguchiko in Yamanashi Prefecture to see the Cherry Blossom Fuji from the best viewpoints.

When to see Sakura at Fuji in 2023:             End March

What else to see:                                         Enjoy the lake, and head to the 6th station of Mount Fuji.

7) Kumamoto Castle Cherry Blossom, Kumamoto Prefecture

One of the most famous castles in Japan, Kumamoto was built in the early 17th century.  The black and white of the castle tower are quite stunning, but in the Sakura Japan season it’s the 800 cherry trees that add magic to this spectacular castle.  During cherry blossom Kumamoto is stunning.

When to see Sakura at Kumamoto:         Late March-Early April

Closest JR Station:                                 Kumamoto Station (tram to castle)

What else to see:                                   City Museum, Botanical Garden & the Museum of Art

8) Cherry Blossom in Kinosaki Onsen Town, Hyogo Prefecture

Running through the glorious onsen town of Kinosaki is the Otani River.  The numerous Sakura trees that line the Kiyamachi Road alongside it, coat the surface of the water each Cherry Blossom season Japan.  On an evening the trees are lit, casting a pink glow around this town, which boasts more onsens than any other in Japan.  Kinosaki is a great place to spend a couple of days and to experience time in a traditional ryokan.

This hot spring resort is a fabulous place to check into a traditional ryokan and soak in the onsens, spending the day and evening walking between the various onsens enjoying the Cherry Blossom season.  You can read all about how to stay in a Ryokan and the etiquette of such a stay in our guide on this.

When to see Sakura at Kinosaki:               Late March-Early April

Closest JR Station:                                    Kinosaki Onsen (2.5 hours from Kyoto)

What else to see:                                      Enjoy the many onsens, stay in a ryokan.

9) Miyajima Cherry Blossom, Hiroshima

Famous for the fabulous Itsukushima Shrine, the island of Miyajima comes alive with around 1900 cherry blossom trees in the spring.  You’ll find the most beautiful blossoms around the Goju-no and along the Uguisu Walking Path.  For a less crowded view head to the Tahoto pagoda and onto Omoto Park. > Read our guide on what to do in Miyajima here

When to see Sakura at Miyajima in 2023:  22nd March onwards

Closest JR Station:                                   Hiroshima, then ferry

What else to see:                                     Eat Miyajima Oysters, and visit the peace park at Hiroshima.

10) Hakodate Park, Hakodate Cherry Blossom, Oshima Prefecture

If you’re heading to Japan later in the Cherry Blossom season, then head north to Hokkaido.  Hakodate Park at the foot of Mount Hakodate opened in 1879 and is planted with 400 Cherry Blossom Trees.

This is very much a local place to visit and you’ll find 400 lanterns hung from the trees to illuminate them at dusk and after dark.  There are also vendors selling food, Japanese Cherry blossom drinks, and Cherry Blossom souvenirs.   (Check out the best souvenirs to buy in Japan).  Bring along a barbecue as this is one of the few times of the year when the fire ordinance is lifted and you can use the BBQ in the park.

When to see Sakura at Hakodate:              Late April, Early May

Closest JR Station:                                     Hakodate

What else to see:                                       Hike Mt Hakodate, and enjoy sushi at the fish market.

Top 5 places to see Japanese Cherry Blossom in Tokyo

Most of the places to see Cherry Blossom in Tokyo are public parks and gardens.  The benefit of seeing the Cherry Blossom Tokyo is that the trees have been planted for maximum effect.  Here are the best places to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo.

1) Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Tokyo

One of best spots in Japan to see the cherry blossoms is Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Tokyo. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is one of the largest and most beautiful parks in Tokyo and is home to a large number of cherry trees.

Although it is one of the most popular places to enjoy the cherry blossoms, it is not as crowded as other cherry blossom viewing spots in Tokyo probably because there is a small entrance fee.

The Travel Sisters Shinjuku Tokyo Japan Cherry Blossoms
Source: The Travel Sisters

Shinjuku Gyoen is a relaxing oasis in the middle of busy Tokyo and a great place to spend a few hours walking around and enjoying the beautiful cherry blossoms or relax while sitting on a bench or having a picnic. (Want to join a sakura picnic?  Check out this awesome tour option to take a cherry blossom picnic!)

Other things to see other than the cherry blossoms include three different types of gardens (Japanese traditional, English landscape, and French formal) as well as a teahouse, greenhouse, ponds, wooden bridges and a trail through a small wooded area named the Mother and Child Forest.  The gardens are large so you might not able to see everything in one visit but you can easily spend a few hours and not run out of things to see.

When to see Sakura in Tokyo in 2023:      March 20-27th

Closest JR Station:                                    Tokyo

What else to see:                                      Gardens, Trails and Wooded Area.

Sakura viewing at the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and how to spend 3 days in Tokyo is recommended by Matilda of The Travel Sisters and this content was provided by her.  Please do follow Matilda and the Travel Sisters on Facebook and Instagram.

While you’re in Tokyo, you’ll want to check out this fantastic destination guide of what to do in Japan’s capital Tokyo.

2) Ueno Park in Tokyo

Ueno Park is a large public park located in central Tokyo. The grounds were originally part of the Kaneiji Temple, which was destroyed in the late 1800s, but luckily, the temple grounds were turned into a public park, which is now home to one of Tokyo’s most popular cherry blossom viewing spots.

We Go With Kids Japan Cherry Blossoms2 (1)
Source: We Go with Kids

There are more than 1000 cherry trees that line the central pathways of Ueno Park, which is home to the annual Ueno Cherry Blossom Festival. This is an ideal spot to visit for prime cherry blossom viewing, as evidenced by the throngs of locals who pack picnics and spread out blankets, intending to spend the day just enjoying the magnificent blossoms. 

Crowds can get heavy, so arrive early and throw down a blanket to save your sport.  If time permits, be sure to walk across the bridge to the Shinobazu Pond, where you can sample many traditional street foods from vendors who have set up to take advantage of the festival crowds.

When to see Sakura in Tokyo:                    Usually late March –18th March in 2023

Closest JR Station:                                    Tokyo

What else to see:                                      Picnic & Try Street Foods from Vendors.

Sakura viewing at Ueno Park and what else to do there is recommended by Nancy of We Go With Kids and this content was provided by her.  Please do follow Nancy and We Go With Kids on Twitter and Instagram.

3) Koishikawa Botanical Garden

You’ll need to pay to enter the Botanical garden, but this is well worth a visit.  In the Koishikawa Botanical Garden, there are different types of cherry trees, and you’ll get to see white cherry blossoms as well as pink ones.

When to see Sakura in Tokyo:                    Usually late March – 18 March in 2023

Closest JR Station:                                    Tokyo

What else to see:                                      Japanese Gardens and Multiple Types of Trees

4) Inokashira Park in Tokyo

Inokashira Park in Tokyo Is one of the most famous Edo period parks in Tokyo.  You can rent a paddle or rowing boat and view the Cherry Blossom from the water while getting a little exercise.  This is the spot for a romantic viewing of the Sakura.

When to see Sakura in Tokyo:                    Usually late March 18 March in 2023

Closest JR Station:                                    Tokyo

What else to see:                                      Rent a rowing or paddle boat

5) Meguro River, Naka Meguro, Tokyo 

The Meguro River is famous for its night Sakura, Yozakura.  The Nakameguro Sakura Festival is held here in early April each year, where 800 cherry trees line the Meguro River.  Join an evening river cruise and see the truly stunning sakura by night!

When to see Sakura in Tokyo:                    Usually late March – 18 March in 2023

Closest JR Station:                                    Tokyo

What else to see:                                      Take a picnic, buy food from vendors and enjoy the evening

You can join a sakura picnic to truly experience Cherry Blossom in Tokyo – check out this option and experience sakura as the Japanese do.

Eat and Drink Sakura Products

If you’re visiting Japan during Cherry Blossom season then you won’t be able to miss the sakura-themed products in the stores.  Expect to see and taste.

  • Sakura dumplings
  • Sakura beer
  • Sakura crisps
  • Sakura Starbucks latte

For more on what to eat and drink in Japan, head on over to our Guide to Eating Everything in Japan.

Read the up to the minute status of the Cherry Blossom Front from Japan Guide

Seeing Japan’s Cherry Blossoms is a bucket list thing to do for many.  Have you been?  Where did you go and what do you recommend doing and seeing?

Travel Tips for Exploring Japan

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