Enjoying Spring in Japan: Where to Go, What to Pack (& How to Avoid Crowds) | The Invisible Tourist x Lisa in Japan

“In the cherry blossom’s shade, there’s no such thing as a stranger” ~ Kobayashi Issa.

Are you planning on travelling in Japan in spring someday? I’ve felt your excitement! Through clenched fists and a sideways bobble, I’ll never forget the little squeal of delight that escaped my lips when I first laid eyes on early-blooming cherry blossoms in Kamakura. My dream of experiencing spring in Japan had finally come true!

From the breathtaking pink petals dominating viewpoints throughout the country to seasonal snacks and centuries-old festivals, there just aren’t any other destinations that celebrate the arrival of spring quite like Japan.

But where exactly should you go during springtime in Japan? How can you best enjoy hanami (cherry blossom viewing) without the crowds? The cherry blossom season or sakura season is one of the busiest times to visit, and for good reason! But while sakura is the star attraction, when researching my own trip I discovered it’s not the only one. 

To bring you this detailed Japan spring guide I’ve teamed up with one of my favourite Tokyo photographers, Lisa from Lisa in Japan. With her exceptional eye for detail that beautifully captures the spirit of Japan, I can guarantee you if you haven’t yet felt butterflies in your stomach about the anticipation of visiting this unique country during spring, you will by the end of this article.

If you’re ready to be inspired by emotive photography and want to learn exactly where to go, how to avoid crowds, alternatives to popular sights, what to wear and tips for how to make the most of your time during spring in Japan, read on for more!

 This guide to enjoying spring in Japan will cover:

  • Useful spring in Japan terminology 
  • Where to go during spring in Japan
    • For plum blossom viewing
    • For regular cherry blossom viewing
    • For late cherry blossom viewing
    • For other kinds of flowers
  • Spring festivals in Japan
  • Packing tips for spring in Japan
    • How cold is spring in Japan
  • How to plan for visiting Japan in spring

This post contains some affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.

What No One Tells You About Spring in Japan: Where to Go, What to Pack (And How to Avoid Crowds) | The Invisible Tourist x Lisa in Japan

Japan in Spring - Useful Terminology | The Invisible Tourist x Lisa in Japan
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 Useful spring in Japan terminology

Before we begin, here are some Japanese words associated with springtime you may find useful during your trip. I’ll be referring to each throughout this article so you may wish to take note and save for later!

  • Ume 梅 – Plum blossoms
  • Sakura 桜 – Cherry blossoms
  • Yaezakura 八重桜 – Frilly, fluffy layered blossoms
  • Shidarezakura 枝垂桜 – Weeping cherry tree
  • Hanami はなみ – Cherry blossom viewing
  • Hanagasumi 花霞 – Hazy curtain of flowers
  • Yozakura よざくら – Night illuminations on blossoms
  • Sakurafubuki さくらふぶき – Cherry blossom petal snowstorm
  • Sakura no jutan の絨毯 Carpet of cherry blossoms
  • Yukizakura 雪桜 – Snow covered sakura
  • Hana ikada 花筏 – Flower rafts amongst petals settling on water

TIP: If you’d like to learn some basic Japanese phrases, my guide to Japanese for tourists plus free PDF cheat sheet can help, as well as these beautiful Japanese words and their meanings!

Nakameguro, Tokyo During Spring in Japan

Spring in Japan months: When and where to go

If you’ve seen my detailed guide about the best time to visit Japan for cherry blossoms, you’ll notice a common theme. The majority of cherry blossoms emerge from late March to mid-April, and last for a little over a week at full bloom. Due to the incredibly short duration of the blooms, sakura hotspots around the country become very crowded with locals and tourists alike.

I’m about to let you in on a little secret I discovered when planning my Japan spring trip. If you’re wanting to witness the magic of blossom viewing, you don’t need to wait until April like everyone else – seriously! This kind of experience can begin as early as mid-February, meaning a more intimate encounter without the overwhelming crowds – I’m about to show you where.

If you’re planning your honeymoon in Japan, you’re probably hoping to avoid crowds and have a more romantic, less hectic time together during this popular season. So let’s take a look at where to go during spring in Japan for plum and cherry blossom viewing, as photographed by the very talented Lisa:

For plum blossom viewing

Although not quite as famous as cherry blossoms, did you know plum blossoms (ume) start flourishing from mid-February? Similar in appearance to sakura, ume blossoms are best viewed until early March. They are fragrant – unlike cherry blossoms – their delicate petals are more rounded in shape and colours range from white to pink. 

TIP: Ume are often confused with cherry blossoms but their red leaves and scratchy bark trunks are a simple giveaway. Learn how to further differentiate plum and cherry blossoms here

The plum blossoms don’t seem to receive as much media attention or hype as their cherry counterparts, making them a wonderful alternative see blossoms without contributing to overtourism in Japan. Here’s where to find them!

 Where to view plum blossoms in Japan

 From mid-February until early March:

  • Koishikawa Korakuen, Bunkyo, Tokyo
  • Hanegi Park, Setagaya, Tokyo
  • Yoyogi Park, Shibuya, Tokyo
  • Yoshino Baigo, Ome, Tokyo
  • Suzuka Garden Forest, Mie
  • Mito Kairaku-en Garden, Ibaraki

TIP: My complete Tokyo itinerary, things to do in Tokyo by neighbourhood and guide to Tokyo hidden gems can help you plan your trip! My guide to where to stay in Tokyo also has 7 areas of Japan’s capital covered with honest advice from all my personal stays.

Enjoy early spring in Japan at Hanegi Park

For early cherry blossom viewing 

While the iconic sakura bloom from late March to mid-April throughout major cities, you probably haven’t heard that a special variety of cherry blossom named kawazuzakura begins to bloom before the more popular sakura. This is usually from mid-February to mid-March. 

Kawazuzakura aren’t as abundant as the regular sakura so it’s easy to be drawn to them while you’re exploring Japan. As much of the trees are bare during this time of year, a burst of pink against an otherwise barren backdrop is a welcome sight! 

These trees are almost like celebrities, rare at first and attract what I’ve since fondly labelled as sakurarazzi (cherry blossom paparazzi). I first encountered sakurarazzi at Ueno Park (more below), a usually busy spot during April. As petals began fluttering to the ground, I realised photographers sporting huge lenses were there to capture shots of these gorgeous little birds darting through the blossoms.

Lisa’s shots of these feathered friends are some of the best I have ever seen!

 Where to view early-blooming cherry blossoms in Japan

 From mid-February until mid-March:

  • Ueno Park Dobutsuen Street Entrance, Ueno, Tokyo
  • Kyunaka River, Sumida, Tokyo (near Tokyo SkyTree) 
  • British Garden within Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokyo
  • Koba Park, Kito, Tokyo
  • Kawazu, Shizuoka (2.5 hours from Tokyo by rail)
  • Kawagoe Shingashi Riverbed, Saitama (a great alternative to Tokyo’s popular Nakameguro, under 1 hour from Tokyo by rail)

TIP: Take a look at more ideas for day trips from Tokyo here!

Enjoying Spring in Japan: Where to Go, What to Pack (& How to Avoid Crowds)

Enjoy Japan in Spring with Early-Blooming Sakura

For regular cherry blossom viewing 

Now let’s get onto talking about the main event! 

Like fluffy pastel clouds you could reach with your fingertips, dreamy pink blossoms outshine all scenery that surround them. They appear to elegantly float above rivers, roads and superbly contrast any architecture backdrop while creating a contradictory aura of calm and excitement. I can’t blame you for wanting to visit Japan during this breathtaking time!

The cherry blossoms that simultaneously bloom during late March to mid-April are known as somei-yoshino cherry trees. Up close, they create hanagasumi – a pretty flower haze that creates incredible photo opportunities. 

As many of the below locations are popular with locals, I strongly recommend visiting on a weekday to avoid the busy weekend crowds if possible.

TIP: In order to be an “invisible” tourist, make sure you’re aware of the do’s and don’ts of correct hanami etiquette. Yes, this is a thing, so please respect the culture by blending in.

 Where to view regular cherry blossoms in Japan

 From late March to mid-April:

  • Tokyo – Ueno Park, Shinjuku Gyoen, Nakameguro River, Shibuya Sakura Street. Inokashira Park is a lesser-known alternative to these tourist hot spots
  • Fuji Five Lakes – Lake Kawaguchiko, Oshino Hakkai (my Mount Fuji one day itinerary can help here), Chureito Pagoda
  • Kyoto – The extremely popular places are Maruyama Park (Weeping Cherry of Gion), Ninenzaka Slope, Philosophers Path and Heian Shrine. For lesser-known spots this hidden sakura in Kyoto video on YouTube by a local is invaluable!
  • Osaka – Grounds of Osaka Castle, Expo 70 Commemorative Park
  • Nara – Stunning hillside views from Mt Yoshino
  • Himeji – Grounds of Himeji Castle, one of the most iconic blossom spots in the country
  • Okayama – Handayama Botanical Garden
  • Hiroshima – Hiroshima Peace Park

TIP: My guide to spending 3 weeks in Japan incorporates many of these locations into an easy to follow day-by-day itinerary! Alternatively, check my full itineraries for Kyoto, Osaka & Nara and things to do in Hiroshima for more.

Japan during Spring: Sakura-dori, Shibuya

Japan in Spring: Nakameguro Street, Tokyo

Enjoy Spring in Japan at Inokashira Park, Tokyo

For late cherry blossom viewing 

Missed the chance to see cherry blossom spots at their peak or prefer to skip the main crowds? No need to worry if your visit doesn’t end up coinciding with this brief period, as there are other amazing sights to look forward to from mid-April! 

Once the blossoms have passed their peak their dainty petals slowly flutter towards the ground like soft raindrops before coming to rest, resembling a sakura no jitan (pink carpet). When dancing on the wind, this can also lead to sakurafubuki (a cherry blossom petal snowstorm). 

If you’re nearby a river, don’t forget to look down as you may be fortunate enough to witness hana ikada – flower rafts carrying onlookers as they glide through pink petals settling on a river’s surface.

Finally, one of the later spring flowers to grace us with their presence are yaezakura. This catch-all term is used to describe varieties of multi-layered cherry blossoms, featuring more than five frilly, fluffy petals. Yaezakura are known to have one hundred petals in some varieties!

 Where to go for late cherry blossom viewing in Japan

 From mid-April until early May:

TIP: My detailed guide to even more sakura spots in Japan can help you plan your trip!

Late Blossoming Yaezakura in Shinjuku-gyoen, Tokyo

For other kinds of flowers

Okay, so far we’ve covered where to see different types of ume, sakura and yaezakura blossoms during spring in Japan. But we’re not quite done yet! 

Mid-April to mid-May brings its own kind of colourful beauty in the form of blue, purple and deep red hues in different locations throughout Japan. Imagine magical wisteria tunnels in gradients of purple and white, a blue flower carpet blending into the sky above and meticulously-pruned red flower bushes dotted throughout temple grounds.

Keep in mind some locations charge different entry fees depending on the intensity of the flowers’ bloom for that day. For instance, at Kawachi Fujien I mention below, it’s not possible to buy tickets at the entrance as they need to be booked in advance to secure your place in a queue, before you’re charged the varying fee on entry. This entry cost will be cheaper on days where the flowers aren’t at full bloom. 

TIP: I’d suggest having a flexible itinerary so you can choose a day with ideal weather conditions during your visit. 

NOTE: Beware of visiting these locations during Golden Week, a national holiday occurring the last week of April – first week of May. Most locals take this opportunity to travel throughout the country, meaning it’s exceptionally busy on trains and at leisure attractions. Avoid this week if you can!

Some of the below locations are a little off the beaten track but are sure to be very rewarding.

 Where to go for other spring flowers in Japan

  • Hitachi Seaside Park, Ibaraki – Blue nemophila flowers and tulips
  • Nezu Shrine, Ueno, Tokyo – Azaleas (this is popular with locals so plan ahead. See my guide to Tokyo hidden gems for more)
  • Shiofune Kannon-ji, Ome, Tokyo – More azaleas
  • Mount Ikoma Narukawa Azalea Garden, Osaka
  • Kawachi Fujien Kitakyushu Wisteria Garden, Fukuoka – Wisteria (watch this YouTube video for what to expect and book advance tickets here)
  • Ashikaga Flower Park, Tochigi – More wisteria tunnels
  • Hitsujiyama Park, Saitama, Tokyo – Fields of shibazakura (moss phlox) flowers
  • Higashimokoto Shibazakura Park, Hokkaido – More moss phlox
  • Shibazakura Takinoue Park, Hokkaido – More fields of moss phlox
  • Hamamatsu Flower Park, Shizuoka – Over 3000 varieties of flowers

TIP: You may wish to include some more places in Japan off the beaten track to your itinerary!

Enjoy Japan in Spring with Wisteria

BONUS: Yukizakura  

In late March 2020, the Tokyo region was blessed with a fascinating and rare sight – yukizakura. This is the term given to the uncommon phenomenon of snow falling on sakura. It had been 32 years since this previously happened in Tokyo, so it’s a very special treat if you get to experience this! 

Yukizakura are a more common scene in alpine locations such as Nagano and Utsunomiya (near Nikko). Lisa was incredibly fortunate to capture these incredible shots in Tokyo during the cold snap!

Yukizakura during spring in Japan

Spring festivals in Japan

Get to know the traditional Japanese celebrations of this season! Do any of the below matsuri festivals during spring in Japan align with when you’re planning to visit?

 Festival Dates More Info
 Hanegi Park Setagaya Ume Matsuri, Tokyo  Mid-February to early March  Official website
(in Japanese)
 Suzuka Forest Garden Weeping Plum Blossoms, Mie  Late February to mid-March  Official website 
 Ueno Sakura Matsuri, Tokyo  Late March to early April  JNTO
 Bunkyo Tsutsuji Matsuri at Nezu-jinja, Tokyo  Early April to early May  Japan.Travel
 Fuji Shibazakura Festival   Mid-April to early June   Japan-Guide.com
 Shizuoka Pass

Packing tips for spring in Japan

It’s a good idea to wear layers so you can take off something as the weather warms during the day, and re-wear it again as the sun starts to set and the temperature drops. Merino wool items are great because they are all natural, and can absorb moisture to keep you warm and dry.

TIP: My detailed guide to what to pack for Japan includes tips for being “invisible” and a free Japan packing checklist!

Spring in Japan temperature: How cold is it?

The climate during spring in Japan is moderate, ranging from a maximum temperature around 13 degrees celsius to about 5 degrees celsius in the mornings and nighttime. 

I personally never felt overly cold during my visit, but I did need to account for rainy weather. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere you’ll probably already be familiar with most of these items, but for my fellow Aussies where we mostly don’t experience a similar climate, here are some ideas for what to pack for a spring trip to Japan:

  • A puffer jacket to wear in mornings, evenings or if visiting colder alpine areas
  • A woollen mid-length coat for sunny days when a puffer jacket may get too hot
  • A warm woollen scarf to keep your neck cozy
  • Merino jumpers (sweaters) to regulate your body temperature
  • Comfortable walking shoes as you’ll be on your feet a lot
  • Water-proof boots for rainy days (or slushy snow in alpine regions)
  • Leather gloves so you can still use your smartphone without taking them off
  • Optional: Rain jacket (or purchase a beautiful umbrella as a souvenir from Japan!)

TIP: Create a “capsule wardrobe” – where each item of clothing can be mixed and matched easily with others to avoid overpacking. I do this by selecting tops and bottoms of similar tones on the colour wheel so I don’t need to worry about how to put together an outfit. No matter what I select for the day, everything will go together nicely.

How to plan for visiting Japan in spring

As mentioned previously, the cherry blossom season is one of the busiest times of year to visit so it helps to be on top of your game. Here are my best tips and things to know for planning a spring trip to Japan:

  • The full bloom dates for flowers vary each year depending on weather conditions. Take a look at sakura reports on japan-guide.com and average the dates of previous years’ peak blooms for places you’re planning to visit
  • Once you have your dates, book your accommodation WELL in advance. By this I mean at least six months if possible to secure the hotels you really want. Some people even book up to one year ahead!
  • Try and avoid booking during Golden Week as discussed earlier. Prices drastically increase during this time, as well as overcrowding in popular locations and public transport 
  • As spring approaches, be sure to check the sakura forecasts on japan-guide.com. There are several in the lead up to the blooms, with the first usually at the end of January.
  • Allow extra time to get to and from popular viewing locations and plan to visit lesser-known spots to help ease the burden of overcrowding
  • Once at your location, bring some kind of picnic blanket or tarp to sit beneath the blossoms (don’t forget the hanami etiquette I mentioned earlier!) and dispose of your rubbish in the dedicated bins or take it with you.

Concluding what to expect visiting Japan in spring

That’s a wrap for this detailed guide to visiting Japan in springtime! Now it’s no longer a secret that spring blossoms throughout Japan can be enjoyed from as early as mid-February until late April. It’s good to know how to avoid the main crowds and visit during a less busy time for a more intimate experience.

I hope you’ve learnt some new cherry blossom terminology, the best places to visit in Japan in spring, discovered some alternatives to popular sights, and where to view other spring flowers. I hope I’ve also given you an idea for how to dress for spring in Japan, too!

Sending another huge thanks to Lisa in Japan for the beautiful photography I hope you’ve enjoyed throughout this article. If you love Lisa’s work, you can follow her on Instagram and Facebook or find her professional Tokyo photography services on LisainJapan.com

Are you looking for ideas for planning a Japan itinerary for the first time? My Japan travel blog has free itineraries to follow, travel tips, where to buy the Japan Rail Pass, how to learn Japanese for travel, the do’s and don’ts of Japanese etiquette and much more. Take a look once you’re done here for everything you need to know before you go!

If you found this helpful, please share it and come and follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok for more Japan inspiration!

Until next time,

The Invisible Tourist

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What No One Tells You About Spring in Japan: Where to Go, What to Pack (And How to Avoid Crowds) | The Invisible Tourist x Lisa in Japan


All photographs are copyright to Lisa in Japan and used with permission.
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  1. Thank you for a really good article, Cherry blossom are my favorite so I really like the content. My dream is to visit Japan during spring time.

    1. So glad you enjoyed this article, Lilly! I can’t wait to revisit Japan during springtime as well. Thanks for your comment!

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