Cherry blossom season: When To Go? 桜の見頃はいつ？
Cherry blossoms in spring
Cherry trees by the river
Cherry blossoms in Kyoto
A carpet of cherry blossoms petals after falling from the trees.
Nagoya castle amid the cherry trees.
Under the blossoming cherry trees.
Cherry blossom petals after hanami.
The ever-popular blossoming of cherry blossoms, sakura, is a national event in Japan. However, the transience of flowers and unpredictability of nature make forecasting when they'll bloom difficult. Fortunately, serious studies and statistics are carried out each year by the Japan Meteorological Agency to provide an idea of a good time to visit.
The cherry blossom season in Japan continues to attract more and more visitors from around the world, for whom springtime in Japan means sakura. However, as they blossom only for about one to two weeks, your trip must be planned accordingly - which isn't easy, because this long-awaited event is subject to weather conditions. The cold, heat, rain or wind can slow down, speed up, or shorten the blossoming time.
The best time to go
It's important to distinguish the time when flowers start to bloom, kaika, from when they reach full bloom, mankai. If there's no bad weather, there are about seven days between these two moments and the flowers only bloom for about five or six days. So there is a maximum of two weeks between the flowers bloom and then fall from the trees.
From south to north
Good news though: with Japan extending over 3,000km from the north to the south, it's possible to admire the cherry blossoms from early March to early May. Indeed, the sakura zensen, "the progress of the cherry blossom front", moves from south to north, the islands of Okinawa to that of Hokkaido. Not only that, but as there are over 100 varieties of cherry trees throughout Japan, if you're not after the most sought variety (somei yoshino), you will more than likely see the blossoming of at least one of the other species if you're traveling between early March and early or mid-May, depending on the region.
Choose your variety
Different varieties can be distinguished by the shape and number of flower petals (from five to over one hundred petals!) and their color, which can vary from white to yellow, or dark pink, through many shades of pale pink. Some species even change color during their flowering (fugenzo).
The somei yoshino variety, with its with five petals and very pale pink - almost white - color, is the most famous and widespread.
From south to north, according to statistics from the last decade, here are the most likely dates of the blossoming of the most popular species, somei yoshino, in major cities in Japan (which often have the same name as the prefecture). These dates correspond to when the bud begins to bloom and when they're in full bloom.
- Kagoshima (Kyushu): the third week of March to the first week of April.
- Nagasaki (Kyushu): the third week of March to the first week of April.
- Fukuoka (Kyushu) from the third to the fourth week of March.
- Kochi (Shikoku) from the third to the fourth week of March.
- Takamatsu (Shikoku Island): the last week of March to the first week of April.
- Matsuyama (Ehime Prefecture): from the last week of March to the first week of April.
- Hiroshima (Hiroshima prefecture): from the last week of March to the first week of April.
- Kyoto (Kyoto Prefecture): the last week of March to the first week of April.
- Osaka (Osaka Prefecture): the last week of March to the first week of April.
- Nara (Nara Prefecture): first week of April.
- Shizuoka (Shizuoka Prefecture): the last week of March.
- Nagoya (Aichi prefecture): the last week of March to the first week of April.
- Takayama (Gifu Prefecture) from the second to the third week of April.
- Kanazawa (Ishikawa Prefecture): from the second to third week of April.
- Tokyo: from the last week of March to the first week of April.
- Sendai (Miyagi Prefecture) from the second to the third week of April.
- Niigata (Niigata prefecture): from the second to third week of April.
- Aomori (Aomori Prefecture): from the last week of April to the first week of May.
- Sapporo (Hokkaido Island): from the first to the second week of May.
For those who can't visit Japan in spring, fear not: the kugatsuzakura variety (literally "October cherry blossoms") blooms from October to January in the Tokyo area. And in the islands of Okinawa, the kanhizakura variety, very dark pink with bell-shaped petals, blooms in February.
Be aware, however, as Spring is an extremely popular time to travel to Japan, we advise you to plan your trip up to 8-10 months in advance!