In the cherry blossom’s shade, there’s no such thing as a stranger” ~ Kobayashi Issa.
The new year is upon us and if the last was anything to go by, the best time to visit Japan for cherry blossoms will be here before we know it! As I’ve written about many times before, any month of year is the best time to visit Japan as each season is beautifully different to the next – but the window of time where cherry blossoms (“sakura さくら” in Japanese) dominate the country with their incredible show is a truly special treat.
It’s no surprise that visitor numbers to Japan during this season have rapidly increased from around 900,000 visitors in 2013 to 2.5 million in 2017! Personally, I am yet to visit during this exiting time but I can tell you it’s one of the highest experiences I want to check off my bucket list. So, I’ve reached out to travel bloggers who were fortunate enough to visit Japan for the cherry blossom season and put together a list of places they recommend for viewing as well as revealing the best times to visit.
In this article we’ll cover recommendations for:
- The best time to visit Japan for cherry blossoms
- The best places to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo, as recommended by travel bloggers
- Other places in Japan to see cherry blossoms, also recommended by travel bloggers
- Tips for visiting Japan during cherry blossom season
- & BONUS! Last but not least, a free printable checklist for you to take on your trip as reference.
Ok blossom-seekers, let’s go! 🌸🌸🌸
When is the best time to visit Japan for cherry blossoms?
The best time to go to Japan to see the cherry blossoms is towards the end of winter to mid-spring, so around late March to mid-April for the majority of the country. There are a number of environmental factors that influence exactly when the blooming will take place each year (temperature, rain and winds) but typically the blossoms come alive in Japan’s south first as the climate is milder, before gradually creeping up north towards major cities such as Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo. The north island of Hokkaido can expect their blossoms to flourish around late April – early May.
Where are the best places to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo?
Japan’s massive capital city is a huge draw card for visitors with many different places to experience the sakura. Here, travel bloggers reveal the best places to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo, and include a few tips for making the most of your encounter:
Nakameguro, Ebisu District
Best time to visit: Early April
Our favourite cherry blossom experience was in Naka-Meguro near Ebisu in Tokyo. Around eight hundred cherry trees line the Meguro River and stretches for 3.8 kilometres. It’s an amazing sight and one of the most popular spots for cherry blossom viewing in Tokyo. The best part, they have a Sakura Festival every year where the many cafés and restaurants bordering the river serve delicious street food and Champagne with strawberries for the occasion. The locals are all out drinking and having a good time under the pale pink canopy of the blossoms. So why not join them? Even though it can be very busy, it has an incredible atmosphere.
TIP: Don’t forget to visit again in the evening as during the festival, the trees are all lit up at night and it looks dreamy!
Contributed by: Cindy, Free Two Roam
Ueno Park, Taito District
Best time to visit: Early April
When my family and I got to Tokyo at the beginning of March, we were on the look out of cherry blossoms but discovered that we were there too early. Depending on a number of varying factors every year, the cherry blossoms can come into bloom anywhere from mid-March to the beginning of April. Thankfully we had scheduled a ski trip to Hokkaido and returned to Tokyo two weeks later, to see 75% of the cherry blossoms in bloom.
TIP: While walking the main park pathway is a wonderful way to see the blossoms, we especially enjoyed the section of trees that runs right through Shinobazu pond.
Contributed by: Wendy, Pint Size Gourmets
Shinjuku Gyoen, Shinjuku-ku
Best time to visit: Early April
One of best places in Japan to enjoy the famous cherry blossoms is the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Tokyo. Shinjuku Gyoen is one of the largest and most beautiful parks in Tokyo and it consists of three different types of gardens: Japanese traditional, French formal and English landscape. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is home to a large number of cherry trees, including early and late blooming cherry trees, which extends the cherry blossom viewing season. It a relaxing oasis in the middle of a busy city and a great place to spend a few hours exploring the gardens or enjoying a picnic.
TIP: Although it is one of the most popular spots in Tokyo to view the cherry blossoms, it was not as crowded as other cherry blossom viewing locations I visited in Tokyo because there is a small admission fee for entry (JPY 200).
Contributed by: Matilda, The Travel Sisters
Where else can I see cherry blossoms in Japan?
Nara, Nara Prefecture
Best time to visit: Early April
My wife and I were so excited for our first trip to Japan. It was something we had been dreaming about for years. It was tough to decide when to visit, but ultimately we chose cherry blossom season for its beauty. Unfortunately, even though we arrived in Tokyo at peak blossom time, we were met with five days of straight rain. We headed to Kyoto hoping for better weather and were greeted by the sun on our visit to Nara. We got lucky with the cherry blossoms again, which were out in full force. Even on their own, cherry blossoms are beautiful and convey a sense a magic. However, when you have an ancient temple as a background at the Todaiji Temple, this effect is even stronger. A gentle breeze carries petals peacefully by you as though they were floating, pink snowflakes.
TIP: If that’s not enough, having a picnic in Nara Park, full of blossoming cherry trees while tame deer frolic around you, really puts the icing on the cake.
Contributed by: Jennifer, The Rainbow Route
Read reviews and compare prices for accommodation in Nara here.
Kumamoto, Kumamoto Prefecture
Best time to visit: Late March/Early April
Kumamoto Castle located in the city of Kumamoto on the southern island of Kyushu is a great place to take in the beautiful Sakura during their short season. The centrally located and impressive castle is a key landmark and attraction in Kumamoto. While there has been damage to parts of the complex from the 2016 earthquake in this region you can still see the beautiful blossoms around the castle and enjoy a picnic in one of the nearby parks. There are many trees right at the castle itself, surrounding grounds, and the smaller near by parks.
TIP: If you plan to visit mid-day the crowd tends to be more visitors and young people enjoying the blossoms and young romance after school lets out. The older locals generally come to participate in Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in the evening after work and set up impressive picnic spreads in the typical fashion to enjoy each other’s company and the beautiful blossoms.
Contributed by: Candiss, Lost Not Found
Read reviews and compare prices for accommodation in Kumamoto here.
Other top spots to see cherry blossoms in Japan
Are you spending around 2 weeks in Japan during the cherry blossom season? You may wish to add these wonderful locations to your itinerary depending on where you’ll be during the blooming periods:
Speaking of itineraries… Will this be your first trip to Japan? I can also help get your itinerary planning off to a good start by sharing my tips for visiting and more helpful info so you can make the most of your experience! Tailored especially for first-time visitors, these are my tried-and-tested personal itineraries I used during my trip. They each cover things to do, costs, getting around, what to eat and recommendations for where to stay. Click on one of the titles below to see my detailed day-by-day travel guides for visiting Japan:
2 Weeks in Japan: A Complete Itinerary for First-Timers
6 Days in Tokyo: A Complete Itinerary for First-Timers
4 Days in Kyoto: A Complete Itinerary for First-Timers
Bonus: Kyoto Hidden Gems You Won’t Want to Miss
Tips for visiting Japan during the cherry blossom season
1. Book accommodation WELL in advance
The cherry blossom season in Japan is one of the busiest times of year for tourism, with both locals and international visitors flocking to see the clustered pink hues around the country. As mentioned previously, visitor numbers to Japan almost tripled in the short timeframe from 2013 to 2017! Don’t expect it to be possible to leave booking your accommodation to the last minute or rock up hoping you’ll be able to find somewhere to stay – you’re sure to be disappointed if you’re turned away. The earlier you can book, the better. Even several months in advance would be best.
2. Be Invisible
There’s something about this wonderful natural phenomena that seemingly unites us all as a community – locals and tourists alike enjoying the same thing, together. After all, that’s what I believe is such a important part of travelling abroad and what being an invisible tourist is about! Get chatting to locals, blend in where possible and…
Be sure to stop for moment and take in the atmosphere surrounding you! It’s easy to get caught up in taking hundreds of photos and video footage to later share on social media that sometimes we forget to stop, take a breath and just be in the moment.
And finally, as promised, simply click the image below to download my FREE printable version of the top locations and times to see cherry blossoms around Japan to help with your planning or to take along with you on your trip:
Judging by these shots and stories from my fellow travel bloggers, the best time to visit Japan for cherry blossoms is from late March to mid April, although this can vary depending on environmental factors and the destinations you wish to see. I hope this round-up of locations helps you to determine when will be the best time for you to tailor your trip and enjoy this breathtaking bucket list experience! 🌸
Need more inspiration for Japan? You can find my full Japan archive here, detailing why and how travelling The Invisible Tourist way on your adventures is the most efficient option to make use of your precious travel time.
Until next time,
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This post contains some affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. I may earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase and if you do, thanks for your support! This helps with the costs of running my blog so I can keep my content free for you. As always, I only recommend a product or service that I genuinely love and use myself! Note: Best times to visit are based on recommendations featured on www.japan-guide.com. Actual times may vary depending on environmental factors so be sure to take this into account when planning your visit. Featured Image Credit: Couleur/Pixabay