Although cherry blossoms are not unique to Japan (they also bloom in countries such as Korea, Taiwan, France, and England), these pretty flowers are more or less synonymous with Japan. Probably no other country takes the cherry blossoms as seriously as the Japanese: they have been celebrated for many centuries and hold a very prominent position in Japanese culture.
Although there are many varieties of cherry trees in Japan, most bloom for just a couple of days in spring. The Japanese celebrate this time of the year with Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties, where friends, family or work colleagues will gather and sit on plastic mats under the blossoming trees, to drink, sing, chat or just admire the blooming spectacle.
Although highly associated with the season of spring, cherry blossoms do not grow strictly and only in spring. The blooming depends on a couple of variables, especially the weather – in recent years, temperatures have been rising, which is why cherry blossom forecasts have been pushed forward by quite a fair bit in recent years.
Japan cherry blossom forecast 2020: when will it be, and in which prefectures
The peak sakura bloom used to occur in April, but if you are hoping to see the sakura in cities such as Tokyo this year, you’ll want to be in Japan before April even starts.
Japanese weather forecasting company Nihon Kisho has just released its initial cherry blossom forecast for 2020, and their calculations are predicting a warm early spring, where cherry blossoms will begin to open in Tokyo on March 19, seven days earlier than average for the capital, with full bloom happening the following week, on March 27.
In fact, Nihon Kisho expects sakura season to arrive three or four days earlier than usual in just about all of Japan, with predicated dates for blossom opening and full bloom in other prefectures being:
- Kochi: March 19/March 27
- Fukuoka: March 20/March 29
- Aichi: March 21/March 30
- Hiroshima: March 22/April 1
- Kyoto: March 23/April 1
- Wakayama: March 24/April 1
- Osaka: March 25/April
- Kagoshima: March 25/April 5
- Ishikawa: April 1/April 7
- Miyagi: April 7/April 12
- Nagano: April 9/April 14
- Aomori: April 23/April 27
- Hokkaido: May 1/May 5
Since having hanami parties is the key highlight of the cherry blossom season, Nihon Kisho has also predicted the best hanami weekends for selected areas: weekend of March 28/29 for Tokyo & Fukoa, and April 4/5 for Osaka.
If you are planning a cross-country tour to chase the “sakura front” (the geographical line of blooming trees), you’ll want to start in Japan’s warm southwest, then make your way to the cooler northeast as the days go by.
Best places in Japan to view cherry blossoms in 2020
Hirosaki Castle Park (Hirosaki)
Located in the central part of Hirosaki city, Hirosaki Castle Park is one of the most spectacular spots in Japan to view the cherry blossoms.
The park has more than 50 varieties of sakura trees and over 2,600 sakura trees, including the most famous type, somei yoshino. It also includes shidare-zakura, the weeping cherry trees, and yae-zakura, the double-layer cherry trees.
Address: 1 Shimoshiroganecho, Hirosaki, Aomori 036-8356, Japan
Entrance fee: Adult – 250 yen; Child – 100 yen
Shinjuku Gyoen (Tokyo)
Shinjuku Gyoen is a large park in Tokyo where one can relax and take in the sights of the beautiful cherry blossoms. The park prides itself on having over 65 types and over 1,100 different cherry trees.
Since the different kinds of trees have different blossoming times, you can enjoy all kinds of blossoms for a relatively long time, making the garden an especially attractive viewing spot in the city.
Address: 11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0014, Japan
Entrance fee: Regular – 500 yen; Junior High and Elementary School Students – 250 yen; Infants – free
Mitsuike Koen (Yokohama)
Mitsuike Koen, or “Three Ponds Park”, has three man-made ponds surrounded by about 1,600 cherry trees.
Although it is one of the most popular cherry blossom spots in Japan (it made the list for “One Hundred Best Places for Sakura Viewing”), you will find that the park area is large enough for all the hanami party-goers so that it doesn’t feel too crowded.
Address: 1-1 Mitsuikekoen, Tsurumi Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa 230-0013, Japan
Entrance fee: Free
Expo 70 Commemorative Park (Osaka)
Built to host the Japan World Exposition in 1970, the grounds have since been converted into a public park that is especially popular during cherry blossom season: around 5000 cherry trees populate the grounds, especially along the southeastern plazas.
You can also take a look at some of the Expo’s original installations, including the famous Tower of the Sun, a 70-meter high artwork that looks over the park’s main entrance and serves as its most recognizable icon.
Address: 1-1 Senribanpakukoen, Suita, Osaka 565-0826, Japan
Entrance fee: Adults – 260 yen; Children under 14 and under – 80 yen
Miharu Takizakura (Fukushima)
Located in the 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.
This is said to be the most beautiful sakura tree in Japan, and if you want to catch a glimpse of this rare tree or snap some photos for the gram, remember to make a trip to Fukushima!
Address: Sakurakubo-115 Taki, Miharu, Tamura District, Fukushima 963-7714, Japan
Entrance fee: Adult (older than Secondary School) – 300 yen; Children – free
Takato Castle Park (Nagano)
A cherry blossom festival is held annually in Takato Castle Park, during which many festival stalls are set up around the park. During the peak viewing period, illuminations are held every night from sunset to 22:00.
Take note that the Takato Castle Ruins Park can get very crowded during this period, so you are best advised to avoid heading there on weekends and to be as early as possible to get a good hanami spot.
Address: Takatomachi Higashitakato, Ina, Nagano 396-0213, Japan
Entrance fee: 500 yen during cherry blossom season
Mount Yoshino (Nara)
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has been considered as one of the best places for hanami for several centuries!
With over 30,000 cherry blossom trees of different varieties within a huge span of 8km, this is a must-visit, especially if you are visiting Nara Park in the vicinity to feed the local deer.
Address: Yoshino-cho, Yoshino-gun, Nara, Japan
Entrance fee: Free
Philosopher’s Path (Kyoto)
The route is so-named because the influential 20th-century Japanese philosopher and Kyoto University professor Nishida Kitaro is thought to have used it for daily meditation. Today, it has been named as one of Kyoto’s best hanami spots, thanks to the cherry blossoms adorned on the 2km stone walkway.
There are plenty of restaurants, cafes, and shops along the walkway, so feel free to window shop or pop into one of the eateries for a meal overlooking the beautiful blooms.
Address: Shishigatani Honenin Nishimachi, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8427, Japan
Entrance fee: Free