Catching the Sakura

“How can I guarantee I see the best sakura?”

One of the most difficult questions when organising a trip to Japan in the springtime is making sure that you get to see the cherry blossom for which many people specifically plan their trips to Japan to see.





The Cherry Blossom Forecast.

In 2014 the first provisional cherry blossom forecast was produced on 22nd January 2014.
 

Provisional_cherry_blossom_forecast

 
As you can see the full blooming dates are predicted to start on 22nd March 2014 at the bottom of Kyushu and reaching the north of Honshu on 25th April giving you over a month of blooming in Japan. The actual dates will get more and more firm as the time draws closer and sometimes these first forecasts are wildly inaccurate so should not be taken as gospel.

Here is a table of the average historical full bloom dates with the opening usually starting 3-4 days in advance and, barring heavy rain or strong winds, giving you a few days afterwards to appreciate the blossom as it starts to fade.
 
Location Historical Full Bloom Date
Sapporo May-08
Hakodate May-07
Hirosaki Apr-30
Tokyo Apr-05
Nagoya Apr-17
Matsumoto Apr-17
Takayama Apr-21
Kanazawa Apr-11
Kyoto Apr-07
Osaka Apr-06
Nara Apr-06
Hiroshima Apr-05
Matsuyama Apr-05
Kumamoto Apr-02
Naha Feb-04
 

 

Planning your trip for the best chance of catching the sakura

Many people tell of experiences where due to a late cold spell or an early heat wave they had spring in Japan but missed the cherry blossom front. As many people have made their itinerary in advance, especially during this busy period, there is very little flexibility in their arrangements to make last-minute changes.

If you head from south to north, west to east, you can either end up either preceding the bloom or chasing it and only catching up with the petals as they blow in the streets. Our top tip is to meet the cherry blossom head on!

If you plan to start in the north before the blossoms are due to start blossoming and head south and west, through Tokyo and Kyoto towards Kyushu where they will have already bloomed, you will be sure to hit the front on your travels. You may not know exactly where you will meet the pink wave on your trip but there will always be a beautiful spot to see the blossom as cherry trees are such a part of Japanese life.
 

Other tips:

There are always places, even within a town, where there are little micro climates and the blossoms come a little earlier or later than they do in the big parks or castle grounds where most tourists will try to spot the cherry blossom. Be sure to talk to the locals as they will always do their best to help you and might be able to point you in the direction of a little-known spot where the cherry trees are in bloom.

Towns and cities are always a little warmer than the countryside so a short trip out on the train can mean that, even if the blossoms are fading in urban areas, they are still in their full glory in the countryside.

What do I do when I meet the cherry blossom front?
Well, you have to indulge in a little Hanami! Read our guide here
 

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