Japan cherry blossom viewing in 2019: Tips and tricks to make sure you won’t miss it

There’s nothing that draws more tourists to Japan than cherry blossoms. Cherry blossom viewing in Japan is a huge event even among the Japanese people. For tourists, if you want to make sure that you can enjoy the beautiful sakura flowers, which come only very fleetingly, you’ll need to make sure your research is thorough before you make holiday arrangements.

Even though it is highly associated with the season of spring, it doesn’t grow strictly and only in Spring. When the cherry blossoms bloom is highly dependent on a couple of variables, such as the weather – where a cold, wintery weather will push back the blooming of the cherry blossoms, and milder weather ushers it sooner – as well as the region – it blooms faster in warmer regions, and slower in colder regions.

When will it be, and in which prefectures?

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When it will be will depend, like we mentioned earlier, on which region in Japan, usually depending on how frosty it is.

As a good guideline – think of it this way – the Southern most prefecture of Japan, Okinawa, a sub-tropical region with very mild winters ranging from 17°C – 20°C – has its first bloom as early as the start of mid-January, and a full bloom in early Feburary.

On the other hand, the Northern most prefecture, Sapporo, where cold, snowy Hokkaido lies, only has its very first bloom in late April and a full bloom in the early parts of May.

Still confused? Check out this interactive Sakura forecast map and slide the slider to see when the cherry blossoms bloom, from the Southern front to the Northern front!

That being said, if you were planning to travel all around Japan, going in early April to mid April is a pretty good time to see most of the city areas (like Tokyo, Osaka etc.) in bloom!

How does the weather affect the first blooming of the cherry blossom?

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Of course, when exactly the cherry blossoms bloom is also not exactly fixed by prefecture, as it is also dependent on weather.

As mentioned earlier, cold weather pushes back the blooming of the cherry blossoms, whereas mild weather ushers it forward.

Unfortunately, if 2019 happens to be a rainy or a windy season – tough luck! – as a rainy or windy  season will cause the beautiful petals to drop, and shorten the frame of time when you can see the cherry blossoms in full bloom. (not to mention hinder you from snapping enviable pics for the ‘gram!)

If cherry blossom viewing is high on your priority, follow Japanese weather forecast very closely and then book your tickets accordingly. If you can afford the time, you can also consider booking a longer holiday to make sure that you won’t miss the opportune time for sakura viewing.

How to best enjoy it

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A little bit of backstory, to get you prepped for a cherry blossom chasing trip: Hanami, literally translating to ‘looking at flowers’, is a historically ingrained tradition celebrated by the Japanese to celebrate the beautiful, fleeting Sakura season, which was thought to represent the fleeting nature of life.

So don’t be surprised when you see everyone from the average salaryman, students, grannies alike picnicking under the cherry blossom trees in every corner of the country – in fact, why not have picnic of your own? Pack a traditional bento for yourself (or simply grab one from the local Family Mart), some choice drinks (perhaps Sakura-themed?) of your own, and Hanami like the locals.

Alternatively, you could also enjoy the multitudes of Sakura-themed sweets and food stuff offered in the country, from your homely McDonald’s, to local neighbourhood restaurants.

You should also consider bringing some Sakura-themed souvenirs home for your loved ones and indulging in another Japanese tradition, omiyage (giving souvenirs).

The best places to view

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So now you’re all set and ready to jet off to see and indulge in the deeply rooted tradition of Hanami. Where are the best places to view the fleeting cherry blossoms?

1. Mount Fuji / Lake Kawaguchi (Shizuoka / Yamanashi Prefectures)

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One of the most iconic places in Japan and located nearby its capital, Tokyo, Mount Fuji is known for its scenic mountain-top views, and has been used as inspiration for many historical art pieces, and poetry. Coupled with sakura blooming all around its mountains and lakes, there could not be a more perfect spot to view the cherry blossoms!

  • Blossoms from late April to early May
  • Take the Keio Express bus which takes you directly to start of the climb of Mount Fuji, at Kawaguchiko 5th Station. Approximately 2 – 2.5 hours, depending on traffic, and costs ¥2,700. Get your tickets here.
  • Admission Fee: Free

2. Nishi Park (Fukuoka Prefecture)

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Boasting around 1,300 cherry trees, Nishi Park also surrounds the beautiful Terumo Shrine, and is well known across the city, Hakata Bay, and Shikanoshima Island. While you’re in the area, don’t forget to visit the ruins of the historical Fukuoka Castle and see the Sakura illuminations there.

  • Blossoms from late March to early April
  • Approximately 15-minute walk from Ohorikoen station or Tojinmachi Station through the Kuko line.
  • Admission Fee: Free

3. Ogi Park (Saga Prefecture)

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One of Japan’s 100 historical parks (Rekishi Koen Hyakusen), Ogi Park offers a beautiful view of over 3,000 cherry blossoms in a beautiful scenic park, with it also reflected in the park’s lake water. Be sure to come in the evening for its light-up!

  • Blossoms from late March to early April
  • Approximately 5 minutes away on foot from JR Ogi Station
  • Admission Fee: Free

4. Osaka Castle Park

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One of the most recognised places in Osaka, this beautiful castle is adorned by over 4,000 cherry blossom trees spread around the gardens. Want to get a panoramic view of the cherry blossoms? Simply go up a few floors of the castle to get a bird’s eye view of it!

  • Blossoms from late March to mid-April
  • The closest station would be Osakajokoen Station on the JR Loop Line, and opens right onto the open grounds of the castle
  • Admission Fee: Free, but ¥600 to enter the castle, and ¥350 for Nishinomaru Garden

5. Philosopher’s Path, Kyoto

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One of Kyoto’s most popular Hanami spots, the Philosopher’s Path is a 2km stone walkway adorned with cherry blossom trees on both sides, and is named after a historical philosopher, Nishida Kitaro, who was said to wander down the path in meditation on his way to Kyoto University. l

There are also plenty of restaurants, cafes, and shops along the walkway, so feel free to window shop as you take in the gorgeous scenery!

  • Blossoms in early April
  • Approximately a 20-minute walk from Demachiyanagi Station on the Keihan Line
  • Admission Fee: Free

6. Miharu Takizakura (Fukushima Prefecture)

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Located in the rather remote farming area of Miharu, ‘Takizakura’ roughly translates to ‘waterfall’, a reference to the cascading sakura petals on the huge, single cherry blossom tree that lies smack-dab in the middle of the park.

Said to be the single most beautiful Sakura tree in Japan, this is a must-visit for something impressive to show off to the ‘gram.

  • Blossoms from mid-April
  • A round bus strip from the JR Miharu station goes for ¥1,000, including the admission fee.
  • Admission: Adult (older than Secondary School): ¥300; Children: Free

7. Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa

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Regarded as one of the greatest gardens in Japan, Kenrokuen Garden boasts of 20 different varieties of sakura. One particular type of cherry blossom to look out for – the kiki zakura – which translates to chrysanthemum cherry blossoms – owing to its unusual chrysanthemum-like, round shape.

Source: kaname-inn.com

These flowers are also unique as they change colours over the course of the very fleeting period the Sakura season.

  • Blossoms from early April
  • Kenrokuen is a stop along the tourist oriented Kanazawa Loop Bus (stop numbers LL9 and RL8), as well as the Kenrokuen Shuttle Bus (stop number S8). It is a one-way ride from Kanazawa Station that takes around 20 minutes, and costs ¥200
  • Admission Fee: ¥310, but free during early admission hours or if you purchase the Kenrokuen Plus One Ticket.

8. Mount Yoshino (Nara Prefecture)

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A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has been considered as one of the best places for Hanami for several centuries. Boasting over 30,000 cherry blossom trees of different varieties within a huge span of 8km, this is a must-visit place if you go to Nara. Don’t forget to go to Nara Park (90 minutes by train) to feed the local deer in the area!

  • Blossoms from early-mid April
  • Approximately 20 minutes from Yoshino Station in Yoshinoyama
  • Admission Fee: Free

9. Himeji Castle (Hyogo Prefecture)

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Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, apart from its beautiful traditional looking castle that you could explore, it is one of the most popular Sakura spots in Japan. Renowned for its night time illumination, feel like a historical prince or princess as you walk through the 1,000 cherry blossom trees that surround the castle grounds.

  • Blossoms from early April
  • An approximate 20 minute walk from JR Himeji Station
  • Admission: Outer Castle: Free; Inner Castle: Adults: ¥1,000; Children: ¥300

10. Peace Memorial Park (Hiroshima Prefecture)

Source: japan-guide.com

A popular, but rather quiet spot for Hanami, the Peace Memorial Park is a historical place where it mourns the loss of around 150,000 citizens during the WWII Hiroshima Atomic Bombing. Surrounded by more than just cherry blossoms, but also roses, tulips, azaleas, and oleanders, be sure to get a good view by enjoying its river cruise!

  • Blossoms from late March to early April
  • An approximate 15-minute tram ride from JR Hiroshima Station to Genbaku Dome Mae. Take streetcar number 2 or 6 to get there, which will cost ¥150.
  • Admission Fee: Free