What you need to know about Japan’s cherry blossom season

The cherry blossom season in Japan is one of the country’s most famous festivals. Here’s what you should know about where and when to go.

Looking down a river covered in flowering cherry blossoms in Japan
  • Jetstar
  • February 2019

Japan’s annual cherry blossom forecast has been released early, putting millions of flower fans in a state of high excitement. The gorgeous pink buds are expected to burst a few days early for sakura season 2019, so it’s time to start planning if you want to be there for one of the world’s most Instagrammable festivals.

What are cherry blossoms (and why should I care)?

The delicate pale-pink flowers of the cherry tree have incited frenzied adoration in Japan for centuries. And while the blanket of blossoms that covers parts of the country is undeniably spectacular, for the Japanese, sakura season is more than just pretty. The blossoms symbolise the beauty of life’s fleeting nature, a strongly held cultural belief. They also represent new beginnings, heralding spring as well as the start of the new financial and school year in Japan.

For visitors, it’s the chance to witness a breathtaking natural phenomenon as well as experience the frenzy that surrounds it. Stores fill with cherry-blossom themed products: everything from beer to sake and potato crisps to Coca-Cola turns pink for the weeks (and months) leading up to sakura season. When the blooms arrive, it’s time to join the rest of Japan in harami – picnicking under the blossoming trees.

How long do cherry blossoms last?

This is why they symbolise the beautiful shortness of life: they only last about a week. Hence the enormous efforts put into precisely forecasting their arrival. Tracking the ‘cherry blossom front’, as first blooming spreads across the country, is a national obsession, with the first forecast coming in January.

When do cherry blossoms bloom in Japan?

It varies a little each year depending on the weather – generally, warmer weather encourages them to arrive earlier. The first blossoms usually appear in Okinawa, a small island significantly to the country’s south, in January. They spread slowly northwards, passing through the central islands (home to Kyoto and Tokyo) in late March and early April, and reaching the northern island of Hokkaido in early May.

Sakura season 2019 is at the early end of the annual blossoming, Buds are due to open in Tokyo on 24 March, Kyoto on 26 March and Osaka on 27 March. If it’s too late for you to get there this year, get an early start on sakura season 2020: flowering in Okinawa (and also in Taiwan, a little further south) usually starts around mid-January.

There’s a detailed forecast opens in new window of sakura dates in locations across Japan, with a ‘full bloom’ forecast as well as dates when the blossoms start to flower, so you can plan your trip with total precision.

Japan Meteorological Corporation's cherry blossom flowering forecast map
Cherry blossom map: Japan Meteorological Corporation / https://n-kishou.com

Where is the best place to see cherry blossoms in Japan?

Yoshino, south of Osaka, is famed as the best place in Japan to see cherry blossoms, with thousands of cherry trees forming a carpet over the mountainsides.

Kyoto, with its traditional old-world atmosphere, is a favourite blossom-viewing destination. The iconic harami spot is Maruyama Park, with its superstar ‘Weeping Cherry of Gion’, a tree over 10 metres tall with branches that sweep gently to the ground.

In Tokyo, Ueno Park and Shinjuku Gyoen are the most popular places, each with over 1000 cherry trees in bloom.

Visit the Fuji Five Lakes region for that ultimate Japan Insta shot. Mount Fuji: check. Cherry blossoms: check. Five-storey pagoda: check.

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Flashback Friday. Chureito Pagoda, Fujiyoshida Japan at cherry blossom time with Mt Fuji 💕🌸🗻Such an unforgettable trip last year. My first overseas trip alone. Hoping to return next year to experience it all over again. #chureitopagoda #japan #mtfuji #富士山 #jetstarsnaphappy #jetstaraustralia #Colors_of_day #magic_marvels #bestnatureshot #exceptional_pictures #allbeauty_addiction #fantastic_earth #theworldshotz #japanawaits #exploringjapan #PermissionCFJ #jaw_dropping_shots #lovers_nippon #team_jp_ #japan_of_insta #ptk_japan #japan_vacations #pics_jp #explorejpn #japan_daytime_view #japanigram #instagramjapan #visitjapanau #nature_perfection #natgeotravel opens in new window

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