Japan Cherry Blossoms: When & where to see sakura in 2023
Japan Cherry Blossoms: When & where to see sakura in 2023
In this deep dive, we share the Japan cherry blossom forecast, talk about sakura viewing culture, and see where are the best places to see cherry blossoms in Japan.
When is the best time to visit Japan for cherry blossoms in 2023?
Typically, cherry blossoms in Japan reach their peak season between the end of March and the beginning of April, which is considered the optimal time to witness the flowers' bloom in renowned tourist spots like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.
As per the official forecast of the Japan Meteorological Corporation for 2023, cherry blossoms are predicted to begin blooming in Tokyo on March 18th.
How long do the cherry blossoms last in Japan?
Cherry blossoms in Japan reach peak bloom roughly a week after they start opening. "Peak bloom" does not mean that the trees immediately shed their blossoms. You will still be able to enjoy them for about a two-week window.
However, if you've already booked your trip outside these dates, fear not! You can still enjoy Japan's famous flowers.
Where to visit for early blossoms (January-February)
There are regions located south of Tokyo where cherry blossoms begin to bloom as early as January. Among them is Kawazu town, situated on the Izu Peninsula coast, which is about three hours away from Tokyo. Kawazu boasts a distinctive type of cherry tree called Kawazu-zakura, which blooms roughly a month earlier than the typical cherry blossoms.
Another such area is Atami City, which is approximately an hour and a half away from Tokyo. Here, Atami-zakura blooms alongside a serene stream, also blooming about a month earlier than the average Japanese cherry blossoms.
Where to visit for later blossoms (April-May)
In the colder areas of Northern Japan, cherry blossom season typically occurs later than in the rest of the country. For example, sakura in Sendai (northeastern Japan) is typically forecast to open at the end of March.
The last cherry blossoms in Japan to open are expected to be in Hokkaido toward the end of April.
When is Japan’s cherry blossom season in 2023?
The dates below are according to the Japan Meteorological Corporation's official cherry blossom forecast as of February 24, 2023.
The forecast is based on various factors, including temperature lows in autumn and winter, and past area data.
- Tokyo - Flowering: March 18 / Full bloom: March 25
- Sapporo - Flowering: April 28 / Full bloom: May 1
- Sendai - Flowering: April 3 / Full bloom: April 8
- Kanazawa - Flowering: March 30 / Full bloom: April 8
- Nagoya - Flowering: March 21 / Full bloom: April 1
- Kyoto - Flowering: March 23 / Full bloom: April 2
- Osaka - Flowering: March 25 / Full bloom: April 2
- Hiroshima - Flowering: March 24 / Full bloom: April 3
- Fukuoka - Flowering: March 21 / Full bloom: March 31
Where is the best place to see the cherry blossoms in Japan?
With over 1,000 locations showcasing Japanese cherry blossoms, picking a single ultimate spot can be quite a challenge. To make the selection process simpler, we've compiled a list of gorgeous locations by region.
a. Northern Japan: Hokkaido
・Moerenuma Park (Sapporo)
A park designed by the sculptor Isamu Noguchi. The whole area is an artistic space with enormous sculptures interspersed throughout the park, and in spring it comes alive in bright pink with blossoms.
・Goryokaku Tower and Fort Goryokaku (Hakodate)
A star-shaped fort with the first French-style fortifications in Japan. Goryokaku was designated as a national special historic site and the surrounding park is known for its famous cherry blossoms. The 107m-high Goryokaku Tower adjacent to the park is a spot where you can marvel at a unique view of the gorgeous Hokkaido cherry blossoms from above.
・Asahigaoka Park (Furano)
One of the One-Hundred Views of Japan, here you can enjoy a splendid view of the Furano Basin and Tokachi mountain range, with some 3,000 cherry blossom trees spreading out in front of you.
・Mt. Tengu (Otaru)
Named for the mythical creatures of Japanese folklore, Mt. Tengu offers gorgeous views of Otaru and the Sea of Japan. In springtime, some of the cherry trees are lit from underneath, creating a dramatic scene.
b. Northeastern Japan: Tohoku Region
・Miharu Takizakura (Fukushima)
Attracting many visitors every year and recognized as a national natural treasure, this is one of Japan’s Three Most Famous Cherry Blossom Trees. A walking path is paved around the large weeping cherry tree, which is believed to be over 1,000 years old.
・Hitome Senbonzakura (Miyagi)
The Shiroishi River, which flows through the southern part of Miyagi Prefecture, is lined with about 8 kilometers of cherry blossom trees along its embankment in an area called “Hitome Senbonzakura”, creating a stunning landscape with a backdrop of the majestic snow-capped Zao Mountains.
・Kakunodate Bukeyashiki-dori (Akita)
Kakunodate, in Akita Prefecture, is a popular tourist spot where the old streets of 390 years ago remain. Bukeyashiki-dori is a place where many samurai residences were built. Towards the end of April every year, the streets become decorated in pink weeping cherry trees, which create a stunning view when contrasted with the black board fences surrounding the samurai residences.
・Mt. Iwaki (Aomori)
Worshipped as a sacred mountain since ancient times, Mt. Iwaki is home to about 6,500 cherry trees line a 20km stretch of road which are in full bloom from late April to early May.
c. Eastern Japan: Kanto-Koshin Region
・Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (Tokyo)
These well-designed gardens are said to be a masterpiece of garden landscapes in Japan. It is a place where you can fully enjoy the scenery in every season. About 1,000 cherry trees from 65 species bloom in spring.
・Ueno Park (Tokyo)
With around 1,200 cherry trees, Ueno Park is one of the most famous cherry blossom viewing sites in Japan. Every spring, when the cherry blossoms bloom, nearly 2 million people visit the park for hanami. In the evening, bonbori (paper lanterns) are lit, and the cherry blossoms look fantastic as they appear in the soft illumination of the paper lanterns.
・Meguro River (Tokyo)
About 800 cherry trees blossom along Megurogawa which stretches for about 3.8 kilometers. While there are no parks here, you can enjoy cherry blossom viewing while having drinks and meals in the cafes and restaurants along the river.
d. Central Japan: Hokuriku and Tokai Region
・Matsumoto Castle (Nagano)
The oldest existing five-tiered, six-story castle in Japan, Matsumoto Castle is especially famous in spring, when cherry blossoms bloom everywhere around the castle. During an evening event, cherry blossom trees that line up along the outer moat are lit up, and when you walk in the pale pink transparent light you'll feel positively enchanted by the romantic scene!
・Takato Castle Ruins Park (Nagano)
Takato Castle Ruins Park is a cherry blossom spot worth visiting multiple times. In fact, this home to around 1,500 cherry trees has been selected as one of the 100 most famous cherry blossom spots in Japan and is one of three major cherry blossom spots in Japan.
・Kenrokuen Garden (Ishikawa)
Kenroku-en is one of the three most famous gardens in Japan. About 40 types of cherry blossoms and about 420 trees are planted where, which bloom in mid-April. It is also selected as one of the 100 Best Sakura Spots in Japan.
e. Mid-Western Japan: Kansai/Kinki Region
・Himeji Castle (Hyogo)
With over 1,000 cherry trees on its grounds, Himeji Castle is renowned as a cherry blossom viewing spot. During the cherry blossom festival, you can take a boat tour in the moat and enjoy going under the pink petals.
・Tō-ji Temple (Kyoto)
Toji Temple is home to Japan’s tallest wooden five-storied pagoda, and around 200 gorgeous cherry blossom trees bloom around the grounds nearby, making for a particularly breathtaking scene. You might even consider dining at a restaurant in Kyoto with cherry blossom views!
・Ninna-ji Temple (Kyoto)
Planted in the northwest area of the Chu-mon gate, a special variety of late-blooming cherry trees called Omuro-zakura create a tasteful atmosphere. The scenery combining the five-story pagoda with blooming cherry blossoms is just exquisite, making it an official national site of scenic beauty and earning it a place among the 100 best sakura viewing points in Japan.
・Mount Yoshino (Nara)
Mount Yoshino is a well-known spot for cherry blossoms, with some 30,000 white wild cherry trees neatly planted across the mountain valley and ridge, making for a breathtaking sight in spring.
f. Southwestern Japan: Chugoku and Shikoku Region
Why is cherry blossom season so important in Japan?
Viewing cherry blossoms has been a national pastime since the 8th century. There are many species of cherry, some of which have been cultivated through cross-breeding. These efforts took off in the 14th century where they became cultivated as ornamental flowers.
But why is Japan so fascinated with the sakura phenomenon since centuries ago? Cherry blossom trees have many meanings to the Japanese. A lot has to do with the very brief life of the flowers, blooming only for about a week to ten days.
Their fleeting beauty illustrates all too perfectly that nothing in this world is permanent, everything passes away at some point. A sad but beautiful admiration for this impermanence has been an important part of the Japanese mindset since ancient times. In Japanese, it’s called “mono no aware.” This mindset can be found in the smallest things of Japanese daily life.
Does Japan have cherry blossom festivals?
Japan does indeed have a variety of cherry blossom festivals, though they take a different form than in the West.
The act of appreciating cherry blossoms is called “hanami” - literally “flower viewing.” These outdoor parties are carefully planned, as the cherry blossom season doesn't last very long - once they start blooming they only last up to a few weeks.
Many people rely on the blossom forecast known as the “sakura-zensen.” Across Japan, sakura trees blossom at different times. Generally, the first flowers to open are in the southwest, where temperatures are typically warmer, while the last sakura to bloom are in the colder northern areas.
Hanami can last an entire day and even into the evening, as viewing "yozakura," or "night sakura," is very popular as well, with many places offering illuminated sakura trees.
Can I join hanami events in Japan?
Yes, visitors are welcome to join in and appreciate the sakura magic! Some basic items will be needed in advance.
First, you’ll want a waterproof tarp or picnic blanket, which can often be found at a 100 yen shop. (A large plastic garbage bag will suffice as well.)
Next, pick up some of your favorite beverages at a convenience store or supermarket - and some sakura-themed bentos or other foods as well. Wet wipes, chopsticks, and a garbage bag are also helpful. Don’t forget to bring your camera and some warmer clothes for when night falls: it can still be brisk in early spring!
Also, while it might still be a little chilly outside, for an outstanding daytime experience, try renting a kimono and strolling around while snapping photos!
More on traveling to Japan in spring
Visiting Japan for the cherry blossoms? Be sure to check out these important links to help make your time even more amazing!
Book an unforgettable cherry blossom tour
Make your trip extra memorable by booking one of these recommended cherry blossom tours.
Enjoy cherry blossom season by train
Japan has a huge number of scenic train rides letting you enjoy the magic of cherry blossom season. The articles below feature some of our biggest recommendations.
We also recommend saving money and hassle by getting a Japan Rail Pass or other discount tickets via our Transport Passes section, at the link below.
*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
Via Live Japan
Subscribe to our Stripes Pacific newsletter and receive amazing travel stories, great event info, cultural information, interesting lifestyle articles and more directly in your inbox!
Follow us on social media!