Cherry Blossom Season in Japan: When should you visit Tokyo & Japan
If seeing the cherry blossoms in Tokyo and Japan is on your bucket list, you’re not alone. But, when should you visit Tokyo and Japan to view the cherry blossoms? Sakura season and the cherry blossom festival in Tokyo is one of the most amazing experiences you can have. But how do you plan for it? This article hopes to shed some light on that question.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Japan is cherry blossom season, but it’s notoriously hard to plan around this festival. I cover the best viewing spots in Tokyo a whole lot more extensively in my book, Hidden Tokyo. I highly recommend this book to anyone traveling to Tokyo who wants to maximize their time and have the best possible experience.
Fortunately for me, I had the privilege of experiencing four sakura seasons in Tokyo living there. It was always fun to watch the first buds of the season bloom and to indulge in all the festivities ranging from the pink Sakura lattes at Starbucks to candied blossoms at the depachika stores.
Japan comes alive this time of year which makes it an exceptional cultural experience. But I’ve known people to visit and miss the blossoms by just a week because it was unseasonably warm and they bloomed early that year. So despite your efforts, if you like to plan your trips far out into the future, you’ll need some luck with this.
I’m often asked, “when is cherry blossom season?” Well, here’s the only hard and fast rule:
CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN JAPAN ARE NOTORIOUSLY HARD TO PREDICT.
But there has to be some sort of date range right? It totally depends on where you want to visit. Tokyo blooms later than Kyoto and earlier than Hokkaido. Generally, the end of March from around the 20th to the first two weeks in April is a good bet. Quite a span right?
So, if your heart is dead-set on experiencing the cherry blossom season in Tokyo or Kyoto, then your best bet is to arrive at the end of March and book your stay through the end of the first week in April.
But if you want to be super cautious and you don’t have a week and a half or two weeks to plan in advance, then you can wait until last minute to book your plane tickets, although this may be costlier. My only advice is if you fly out to Japan, you ought to stay for at least a week and a half, preferably two. It’s a long journey for most people.
There’s so much to see in this country and if you hope to catch Sakura season at its peak around Japan, in Tokyo or even Kyoto, your best bet is to plan a lengthy stay. Sometimes the blossoms bloom early, sometimes they’re late.
Here’s the 2016 Japan Cherry Blossom forecast. It’s a good indicator of what to expect, but as you can see the blossoms often bloom a week apart between years.
Also, you can see cherry blossoms in Japan first bloom down south and then finish blooming up north in Hokkaido. You can get a rough estimate of the dates around the country.
tips for visiting japan during cherry blossom season
If you plan on going to Kyoto, you will need to book your place far in advance. Rates will skyrocket and rooms will book up super fast. If you plan on staying in Tokyo, because it’s a much larger city, you can probably snag some last minute rooms with less hassle, but depending on your budget it’s probably wise to reserve a bit in advance.
I know this is contradictory advice since I personally think you shouldn’t book too far in advance (if you can’t cover the range from late March to early April), but you also don’t want to be caught last minute in Kyoto without a place to stay. So you’ll need to find a compromise.
Also, expect crowds at a lot of the larger and more popular parks such as Ueno Park and Chidorigafuchi. The great thing though about Japanese culture is their outward respect towards others, so it’ll feel crowded but people don’t push or shove. In the end, plan your trip around other stuff too other than the flowers. The flowers are great, but Japanese culture truly is the biggest highlight of this country.
If you’re heading to Tokyo soon, I highly recommend my book Hidden Tokyo. It’s filled with tons of insights on a range of activities around Tokyo. It also helps to explain this complex city better by dissecting 18 different major neighborhoods into chapters, with around 400 pages of pure Tokyo insight & recommendations. It lays out the city in a way that you can grasp!