Updated 18 Feb 2020: New details added on Nagoya and Mt. Fuji, and a new list of handpicked day tours that can enhance your hanami experience!
For those planning to catch the Sakura during the annual Hanami festivals (花見, “flower viewing”) this coming spring, it’s not too late to arm yourself with the only Cherry Blossom Japan Guide you will EVER need. From insider tips on maximising your chances of sakura spotting to guided tours to the best viewing spots, here are some hacks to getting the most out of your 2020 cherry blossom experience.
Photo credit: Insider Journeys
Catching the Cherry Blossoms in Japan is hard. With an average flowering to end of bloom period of up to 14 days, you’d have to plan your trip really well. Even if your travel period coincides with the blooming period, there are still tons of things to consider. Not to mention locals and tourists to jostle with for the best views.
a lot of good planning, it’s still possible to catch this once a year affair. After all, you can’t say you’ve truly experienced Japan until you’ve seen the cherry blossoms in full bloom.
Photo credit: Backyard Travel
To help you out, I’ve split this Ultimate 2020 Cherry Blossom Japan Guide into three main sections: Pre-trip Planning, Cherry Blossom Viewing Day Guide, and Frequently Asked Questions. Pay special attention to the 2020 cherry blossom blooming dates!
Note: Will try updating this frequently so this should stay relevant!
Pre-Trip Cherry Blossom Season Planning
Step 1: Know Japan’s Cherry Blossom Forecast
While the blooming season usually starts on mainland Japan from March to April, accurate forecasts are typically only released in February. If you’re planning ahead, it’s important to use the cherry blossom blooming patterns of the previous years as a guide. Regardless, here is the most updated forecast for 2020.
Latest 2020 Cherry Blossom Forecast — Updated 6 February 2020
Photo credit: Japan Meteorological Corporation
Tokyo: Flowering date March 16, Full Bloom date March 24
Osaka: Flowering date March 23, Full Bloom date March 31
Kyoto: Flowering date March 20, Full Bloom date March 29
Nara: Flowering date March 24, Full Bloom date March 31
Wakayama: Flowering date March 23, Full Bloom date April 1
Nagoya: Flowering date March 18, Full Bloom date March 28
Hiroshima: Flowering date March 20, Full Bloom date March 30
Nagano: Flowering date April 5, Full Bloom date April 11
Niigata: Flowering date April 2, Full Bloom date April 8
Yamagata: Flowering date April 10, Full Bloom date April 15
Fukuoka: Flowering date March 21, Full Bloom date March 30
Hakodate – Hokkaido: Flowering date April 30, Full Bloom date May 3
Sapporo – Hokkaido: Flowering date May 1, Full Bloom date May 5
Weather changes can easily affect the blooming period, so despite following the general forecast, it’s important to stay updated with the latest forecast as your trip approaches. Here’s a handy cherry blossom blooming meter in Japan for monitoring.
Step 2: Decide on travel dates and location to visit
Photo credit: Kishou
It may seem obvious, but making a decision is really a lot harder. As you can tell from the forecast, the blooming generally follows a pattern from the south to the north, which means there are plenty of dates and options for Japanese cities you can visit. Here are a couple of tips.
Pro-tip 1: Skip Okinawa
Being so far south, Okinawa is the earliest Japanese region where the Cherry Blossoms bloom. Often, it’s also used as an indicator for the forecasts on mainland Japan. If you really want to maximise your chances, you’d want to be in an area where you can easily move around. Flying to Okinawa means you are stuck there for your entire vacation, as it doesn’t make sense to take another flight elsewhere to catch the sakura.
Pro-tip 2: Pick regions during the main cherry blossom season
Photo credit: jrailpass.com
Therefore the most flexible plan is to decide on a date and location just before the middle of the season. Based on the 2020 Japan Cherry Blossom Forecast, Osaka is a pretty good entry point as the flowering is slated to start around the 25th of March and full bloom on the 1st of April.
Other than being a good hub for international flights, Osaka is very well-connected to other Japanese cities by rail. This means you can easily go cherry blossom hunting at different cities even if you miss the actual blooming period in Osaka. Sakura aside, Osaka is a pretty awesome city to explore with Universal Studios Japan and tons of street food.
Check out our Osaka Budget Guide for affordable things to do.
Best Japanese cities and prefectures to catch the cherry blossoms
If you still can’t make up your mind, here are a couple of Japanese cities to help you out.
Photo credit: TokyoCheapo
Best cherry blossom viewing spots: Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Ueno Park, Chidorigafuchi, Sumida Park in Taito-ku, Inokashira Park, Megurogawa, Yoyogi Park, Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens.
Our favourite capital city is also the most interesting with a myriad of subcultures. If you’re after a mix of the traditional and new, Tokyo’s the place to be. Check out our Quirky Tokyo Guide and video below on things to eat near the subways using the subway pass!
Read also – Japan Budget Guide: 7D Tokyo to Osaka for S$1.1k
Mount Fuji (Fuji Five Lakes Region)
Mt. Fuji and the Fuji Five Lakes (Fujigoko) region are gaining traction as cherry blossom viewing spots. Photo credit: Midori on Wikimedia Commons
Best cherry blossom viewing spots: Chureito Pagoda, Eastern and Northern Shores of Kawaguchiko, Ubuyagasaki Peninsula, Iyashi no Sato, Oshino Hakkai
The most iconic mountain in Japan becomes even more picturesque during spring when nearby cherry trees bloom. Mount Fuji and the Fuji Five Lakes region are just under two hours away from Tokyo on a direct train, making it a perfect day-trip location for travellers based in Tokyo.
Read also – Guide to Climbing Mount Fuji
Nagoya Castle during springtime. Photo credit: 名古屋太郎 on Wikimedia Commons
Cherry trees in full bloom at Nagoya Shrine. Photo credit: Gryffindor on Wikimedia Commons
Best cherry blossom viewing spots: Kanazawa Castle, Yamazaki Riverside, Inuyama Castle, Tsuruma Park, Nagoya Peace Park, Nabana no Sato Botanical Garden
Located in between Tokyo and Osaka, Nagoya is one of Japan’s prominent castle towns. Today, it is also home to automaking giants such as Toyota, Honda, and Mitsubishi Motors. Other than the industrial products that it is known for, Nagoya’s restored castle, ancient shrine and parks are also beautiful scenic spots for beautiful cherry blossom viewing.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Nabana no Sato, a botanic garden with 12,000 vibrant flowers in full bloom in the Mie Prefecture.
Photo credit: FastJapan
Best cherry blossom viewing spots: Kema Sakuranomiya Park, Osaka Castle Park, Expo 70 Commemorative Park, Osaka Mint, Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park, Nagai park, Shirokita Park, Osaka Gokoku Shrine
The unofficial food capital of Japan and home to the magnificent Universal Studios Japan and Osaka Castle, Osaka another great place to base your Cherry Blossom adventures from due to the numerous connections to all parts of Japan.
Photo credit: Wicked Tourism
Best cherry blossom viewing spots: Philosophers Walk, Maruyama Park, Heian Jingu Shrine, Arashiyama area, Toji Temple, Kiyomizudera Temple, Kamo Shrine, Hirano Shrine.
From the red torii gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine to towering bamboos at Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Kyoto is not shy of photogenic and culturally rich spots. It’s close to Osaka and it’ll be great to cover both destinations together.
Read also – Kyoto Budget Guide
Photo credit: imgur
Best cherry blossom viewing spots: Hiroshima Peace Park, Hiroshima Castle, Shukkeien Garden, Hijiyama, Miyajima, Senkoji Park, Kintaikyo Bridge Iwakuni, Chuo Beach.
Hiroshima has come a long way since the dropping of the atomic bomb during WWII. Other than serving as a reminder to humanity, there are plenty of parks and memorials where you can enjoy the beauty and serenity of the cherry blossoms.
Photo credit: GoNagao.net
Best cherry blossom viewing spots: Takato Castle Ruins, Takada Park, Koboyama Koen, Komoro Kaikoen, Hakusan Park, Shinanogawa Yasuragitei Ryokuchi Park, Former Niigata Customs House, Shinano River Water Shuttle
Often left out of many itineraries, the regions of Niigata and Nagano will charm anyone willing to step out of the main cities. Home to the most famous Zenkoji Temple for pilgrims, there are many hidden gems waiting to be explored. Not to forget the onsen soaking snow monkeys!
Read also – Niigata Nagano Travel Guide via the JR Pass
Photo credit: Yamagatakanko
Best cherry blossom viewing spots: Miharu Takizakura, Kajo Castle, Hirosaki Park, Kitakami Tenshochi Park, Okitama Sakura Corridor
Japan’s best-kept secret. Blessed with surreal scenery, good food, and a chilled out vibe, Tohoku and Yamagata are underrated regions perfect for those wanting to escape the city life.
Read also – Yamagata Guide: Japan’s secret winter wonderland
Photo credit: Princehotels
Photo credit: Hirokatsu Seki
Best cherry blossom viewing spots: Matsumae Park, Goryokaku Hakodate, Noboribetsu Onsen Flower Tunnel, Maruyama Park, Nakajima Park, Asahiyama Park, Seiryuji Temple
Much more than a winter destination, the northernmost region of Japan is also known for its volcanos and hot springs. Hokkaido is also one of the best places in Japan to go on a road trip between Spring and Autumn.
Still not sure where to go? Check out our full list of Japan guides for inspiration!
Step 3: Book your flights & accommodations early
It’s the peak season, so try and settle those big-ticket items like flights and accommodation early to keep costs low. If you want more flexibility, many airlines also allow you to change your travel dates for a small fee. Of course the earlier you decide, the better it is as the dates you might want to change to might be full or have a surcharge!
For accommodation, book early to secure your space but look for places with a 14-30 days cancellation policy in case you need to change your travel dates.
Step 4: Figure out where the special festivals & events are and either
Avoid them at all costs
If jostling with people for space isn’t your thing, look for alternative viewing spots in the city you are visiting. I know friends who prefer having their own space to take photos and enjoy the scenery. Simply google “[city you are visiting] cherry blossom festival”, and you can easily get the information you need.
Or go on a pre-booked tour
For those who want to visit popular spots without the fuss, consider going on a pre-booked cherry blossom viewing tour to guarantee the best experience. Book a day trip from Tokyo to Lake Kawaguchi beside Mount Fuji for the most iconic views of the country.
Other cherry blossom viewing day tours you might find useful or complementary to your trip:
1) Hitachi National Seaside Park and Ashikaga Flower Park/Mito Kairakuen Park Trip: S$151.39
2) Tokyo Cherry Blossoms Walking Tour with Sumida River Night Cruise: S$107
3) Cherry Blossom Tour with All-You-Can-Eat Strawberry Picking Experience: S$126.50
Mt. Fuji (from Tokyo)
1) Kanto Cherry Blossoms, Mt. Fuji Sledding, and Strawberry Picking Tour: S$136.69
2) Cherry Blossom Tour: Arakurayama Sengen Park, Misaka, Strawberry Picking: S$123.05
3) Flower Festival Tour with Mt. Kachi Kachi Ropeway Experience: S$131.45
1) Inuyama Castle Town Ticket with Round Trip Train Ticket: S$17.45
2) Inuyama Castle and Town Half-Day Guided Tour from Nagoya: S$149.79
3) Kanazawa Day Tour from Nagoya: S$94.79
1) Kyoto Cherry Blossom Tour: Shogunzuka Seiryuden, Maruyama Park, Kadaiji, Keage Incline & More: S$80.55
2) Kyoto Toji Temple and Nijo Castle Cherry Blossom Night Illumination Tour: S$113.25
3) Arashiyama, Tenryuji Temple, Ninnaji Temple Kyoto Cherry Blossom Tour: S$139
4) Uji, Fushimi, and Yamashina Cherry Blossom Tour: S$128.35
5) Hirano Shrine and Philosopher’s Path Tour with Cherry Blossom Viewing: S$37.75
1) Southern Hokkaido Cherry Blossom Day Trip from Sapporo: S$161.45
Step 5: Get an internal transport pass (JR Pass) and be flexible
For the ultimate flexibility to increase your chances of a cherry blossom viewing experience, consider getting a JR Pass. For a fixed price, the JR Pass allows you unlimited travel along all JR lines — the main intercity transport throughout Japan.
For example, getting the 7D Whole Japan JR Pass will give you the flexibility to travel to almost anywhere in Japan with a JR line, while the 5D Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass will allow you to travel between Hiroshima and Kansai region easily.
Based on the area selected in Step 2, pick a suitable JR Pass and plan your itinerary around the region. Do be flexible once the detailed forecast is out.
Check out our Ultimate JR Pass guide to find out more about the different passes and the best ways to use them.
JR Passes offer good value, and we found ourselves saving $114 each during our budget trip from Tokyo to Osaka.
Step 6: Fit in other highlights
Torri Gate at Hakone, a day-trip from Tokyo.
While the Cherry Blossoms is the main attraction, it’s only one of the many things Japan has to offer. From gorging on cheap and delicious Japanese street food, to a fun-filled day out at Disneyland or Disneysea Tokyo, there are tons of attractions to explore.
Photo credit: Tom Bricker
Here’s a list of handy Japanese itineraries and guides that can help.
Cherry Blossom Viewing Day Guide
Step 7: Start the day early
And I do mean early. Not only do you avoid the main tourist crowds (the tour buses), you get to reserve a prime viewing spot for the next few hours. Natural light for photography is also the best during the golden hour just after sunrise. Light is gentler and you get that extra softness to your photos.
Starting the day early also means you have more time to explore before nightfall!
Step 8: Pack some food for a picnic
For locals, one of their favourite cherry blossom activity is to enjoy a picnic with friends. Blend in and pack a mat with some food for your own picnic. Do check if eating is allowed in the place you are visiting though. Some parks have a strict no food and drinks policy.
Step 9: Dress Up in a Kimono
Visiting Nanzen-ji Temple in Kimonos.
Many of them even offer hair services for those going for the perfect look.
Transport, WiFi, Activities!
Before you leave for Japan, make sure to secure your travel essentials!
1) Tokyo Subway Ticket (72 hours): S$18.70
2) Osaka Amazing Pass (2 Days): S$46
3) Airport Skyliner, one-way: S$26
4) Unlimited 4G Data SIM Card (8 Days): S$30.35
5) Hakone Free Pass (2-Day Pass): S$72.10
If you’re in a group or with kids? Book a private car charter to save the hassle:
Frequently Asked Questions about Cherry Blossoms in Japan
Why are the cherry blossoms in Japan so popular?
More than just pretty flowers, cherry blossoms symbolises many of Japan’s deep-rooted cultural beliefs. The short flowering period reflects the fleeting nature of life, as embodied by many other zen traditions such as tea ceremonies. This is why even Japanese in the big cities slow down a little to join the sakura hanami. While many things in Japan attract either tourists or locals, cherry blossom viewing attracts everyone!
Cherry Blossom, Sakura or Hanami?
Often used to describe the same thing, Hanami actually means ‘flower viewing’, while cherry blossoms (English) and sakura (Japanese) describes the flower. Cherry Blossoms can flower from any of several trees of genus Prunus, but the most common one in Japan is the Japanese Cherry.
What’s a Hanami festival like?
Photo credit: Gurunavi
While they vary, expect lots of music, sakura themed food (READ: pink), sake, and good vibes. There’ll be more people around the parks, and loads of merchants tapping on this yearly affair. As if they aren’t friendly enough, locals appear to be even friendlier during this period!
Hope you found our Ultimate Cherry Blossom Guide useful. Do check back as we will continually try to update this page every year!
Got a tip we missed out? Let us know in the comments below. 🙂
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