Springtime means an end to those cold, windy months of winter and a beginning of warmer days. Warmer days that color the world with flowers and greenery once again. And no spring in Japan is complete without a sakura hanami. It’s time to see when you can expect the delicate cherry blossoms of Japan to make their 2021 appearance.
When to go
Whether you choose the daytime to watch the flower petals fall or select nighttime for some yo-zakura (evening cherry blossoms), these are the times to mark on your calendar.
For the earliest blooms, check out the Kawazu sakura trees in Shizuoka Prefecture. Kawazu City, famed for its trees, blossoms with pink flowers from early February for about one month.
March—you’ll find—is when most of the cherry-tree viewing will take place from Tokyo and south. Prepare yourself, and your camera, for sakura forecasts hitting Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya, and Tokyo from late March and lasting two or three weeks.
North of Tokyo, the cherry blossoms are late bloomers, and you can appreciate their fluffy, cloud-like boughs from early to mid-April—or early May for Hokkaido.
Where to go
What’s more Japanese than experiencing a good, old-fashioned hanami and reflecting on the transient nature of our world? Other than perhaps enjoying the sakura with a Japanese festival! Here are some great places to see the best cherry blossoms and take in the energetic atmosphere of spring.
Please note that due to Covid-19 some events may be canceled or postponed. Please check ahead of time.
Aomori’s Hirosaki Castle is one of the most popular places to see the cherry blossoms thanks to their stunning blossoms-filled moats and delicious food stalls. (Hirosaki, Aomori)
As for Tokyo, well it doesn’t get much better than Ueno Park. With lush branches laced with pretty pink flowers, some 800 trees can be enjoyed with Ueno Sakura Matsuri from late March to early April. (Ueno, Tokyo)
If you’re looking to leave Tokyo but stay close, how about a stop at Odawara Castle in Kanagawa? Their night illumination of the cherry trees is sublime and there are bound to be food carts and special events along the way. (Odawara, Kanagawa)
Himeji Castle is a must-see even if you aren’t visiting during cherry blossom season—but during spring when the trees sing with color? You simply have to go! The castle and its 1,000 trees offer a picture-perfect vista of Japan. Why not sit awhile and compose your own haiku to the fleeting flowers? Early April is the time to visit for their festival. (Himeji, Hyogo)