Mar 08. 2024Topics

All About Cherry Blossom Season in Japan

sakura kyoto.jpg

Spring is almost here, and with it comes Japan's world-famous cherry blossom season. In late March or early April, depending on where in the country you are, you'll see everyone flocking to parks, shrines, gardens, rivers, or wherever else you can sit under the beautiful cherry blossoms to enjoy hanami, or cherry blossom viewing in English.

If you're in Japan during cherry blossom season, you have to take part in cherry blossom viewing to truly experience this important part of Japanese culture. But why is hanami such a famous and important part of Japanese culture, and where and when should you go see the blossoms? We'll cover all that and more in this article.

Why is Hanami So Important in Japan?

Cherry blossom viewing has been an important part of Japanese culture for centuries, going back to the Heian Period (the late 700s to late 1100s). While originally plum blossoms, which usually begin to bloom in February, were popular with Japanese nobility, eventually cherry blossoms, known as sakura in Japanese, became more popular. Since then, cherry blossoms have become a symbol of the arrival of spring in Japan.

Cherry blossoms only bloom for a short period before falling, meaning that hanami season is quite short. For Japanese people, this short blooming period is symbolic of the concept of mono no aware, which emphasizes the fleeting nature of beauty and the value of sharing that moment with others. This concept is closely tied to much of Japanese philosophy and culture, which is part of why the tradition of hanami has continued in Japan for centuries.

When is the Best Time to See Cherry Blossoms?

Since the blooming period for cherry blossoms is so fleeting, it can be a bit tricky to time your viewings to see them during peak bloom. The peak is generally in late March to early April, but this varies each year depending on how warm or cool the winter is.

Luckily, organizations like the Japan Meteorological Corporation release "bloom forecasts" every year to predict when the best time to see cherry blossoms will be in cities across the country. They tend to update the forecast as necessary, so referring to this will give you a better chance of catching the cherry blossoms in full bloom.

Click Here to check out this year's cherry blossom forecast.

sakura temple.jpg

How to Take Part in Hanami

There's no "right" way to take part in cherry blossom viewing, so how you go out to see the cherry blossoms is really up to you. That being said, having a picnic or barbecue is one of the most common things people will do during this season.

Usually, people will have picnics in parks or along riverbanks where there are many cherry trees. They will spread tarps or picnic blankets out below the cherry blossoms to sit and enjoy food and drinks while watching the blossoms. Generally, people will eat any kind of popular Japanese food such as rice balls or tempura, and alcohol is often consumed. It's common to have this kind of Hanami party with friends, family, or coworkers, and sometimes the parties are quite big.

If you plan on having a picnic under the cherry blossoms, it's a good idea to get there early so that you can put down your picnic blanket in a good spot. Popular hanami locations usually get crowded fast, so an early start will ensure you can sit below a cherry tree and have the best view possible. Keep in mind though that some popular hanami locations may not allow you to put down a tarp just to hold your spot if you are not there. If you are planning on trying to stake your claim to a spot before actually enjoying the cherry blossoms, be sure to check with the location to see if there are any rules you should be aware of.

Here are some more tips you should know to make the most of hanami.

Head to a Spot with Food Stalls:

Since food is often such an important part of cherry blossom viewing, there may be food stalls set up at popular locations with many cherry trees. This gives the area a festival-like vibe even if there is no "official" festival taking place. If you go see cherry blossoms at one of these locations, be sure to enjoy some of the food!

See Cherry Blossoms at Night!

The practice of hanami at night is known as Yozakura. Many famous cherry blossom viewing locations will illuminate the blossoms in the evening, creating an atmosphere different from daytime viewing. You can enjoy hanami just as you would during the day while sitting under the magical illuminated blossoms. Not every location illuminates its cherry trees, so you'll need to search for Yozakura events to find one.

sakura night.jpg

The Unspoken Rules of Hanami

The popular hanami spots will be crowded during this season, and as such there is a lot of unspoken etiquette involved in enjoying cherry blossom viewing in such a way that it doesn't ruin everyone else's experience. Here is some of the unspoken etiquette you should know.

Don't Take Up Too Much Space

There may be a lot of people trying to find great picnic spots at the location you choose, so try not to take up more space than you and your party need. That way, everyone has a fair chance to find a good location to spend time under the cherry blossoms.

Bring Your Trash Home

As we've already mentioned, eating and drinking is an important part of cherry blossom viewing, but that also means that you'll likely have a lot of trash left over by the time you are finished. Trash cans in public spaces are uncommon in Japan, and many popular cherry blossom viewing locations go so far as to remove trash cans during hanami season. To protect nature, be sure to bring some bags with you to take your trash home and throw it out there.

Avoid Loud Music and Noise

Again, it is fine to talk, eat, drink, and have fun with friends or family, but try not to go over the top with the noise. Talking too loudly, getting too rambunctious, or playing music might bother other people trying to peacefully enjoy the cherry blossoms, so for the sake of others try to keep your noise level reasonable.

Follow the Location Rules

Some locations may have rules such as no open flames (meaning no barbecues), no pets, and so on. Since these are public spaces, do your best to follow these rules so that you won't have to deal with any unfortunate consequences of breaking them.

Popular Hanami Sites in Japan

There are popular locations for seeing cherry blossoms all across Japan. Here are just a few famous spots you could go to if you want to see cherry blossoms this year.

Maruyama Park (Sapporo, Hokkaido)

This park is home to around 1700 cherry trees, including the popular Somei Yoshino variety of cherry trees. The Maruyama Zoo is also located within the park, which means that this location gets very busy with both locals and tourists during cherry blossom season.

Click here to learn more.

Hirosaki Park (Aomori)

This is one of Japan's most famous cherry blossom spots. Hirosaki Park has over 2600 cherry trees surrounding Hirosaki Castle and also illuminates the cherry trees at night. This park has an amazing atmosphere day or night, so if you are in Aomori during cherry blossom season be sure to check it out.

Click Here to learn more.

Sankeien Garden (Yokohama, Kanagawa)

This Japanese garden creates beautiful landscapes with cherry blossoms alongside old Japanese houses and ponds. If you want to enjoy cherry blossoms while taking in the historical buildings and tranquil atmosphere of a Japanese garden, then be sure to check out this location.

Click Here to learn more.

Central Takayama City (Gifu)

Visiting the old town in central Takayama during cherry blossom season is like walking back in time as you explore old streets lined with traditional wooden Japanese houses. The Takayama Festival is also held during the hanami season, so you can see traditional Japanese floats and parades while enjoying both cherry blossoms and the festival atmosphere.

Click Here to learn more.

Heian Shrine (Kyoto)

This is one of the more famous shrines in Kyoto, and its vast gardens are full of cherry trees. In particular, Heian Shrine is famous for weeping cherry trees, which against the backdrop of a traditional Japanese shrine are truly spectacular.

Click Here to learn more.

Miyajima (Hiroshima)

Miyajima is one of the most famous islands in Japan, and many cherry blossoms bloom around the World Heritage Site Itsukushima Shrine in spring. Take the time to spend a whole day wandering around the whole island, enjoying food, the wild deer that peacefully wander around, Miyajima's famous Torii gate, and of course the cherry blossoms.

Click Here to learn more.

sakura miyajima.jpg

Maizuru Park (Fukuoka)

Located on the site of Fukuoka Castle, there are around 1000 cherry trees at this park. It's a big, beautiful spot for hanami so be sure to check it out if you are in Kyushu during cherry blossom season.

Click Here to learn more.

Make the Most of Hanami Season!

Cherry blossoms are fleeting every year, so if you do not pay close attention to the bloom forecasts and head out to see the cherry blossoms as soon they are close to peaking, you could easily miss them. As winter ends and spring begins, hanami season breathes new life into Japan, making it one of the most beautiful and fun times to be in the country. Make the most of the short blooming period and have fun eating, drinking, and viewing the cherry blossoms this year!

sakura fuji.jpg

about us
top page