Japan’s cherry blossom season is serious business. Every year, the arrival of the cherry blossoms is anticipated and predicted with scientific precision to make sure the eager crowds can start planning their picnics and hanami sessions well in advance.
These famous blossoms are as beautiful as they are temporary, making it crucial to know when and where they’ll be blooming at any given time. In 2021, the forecast predicts peak blooms in different mainland Japanese cities between March 28 and May 18.
The exact date of peak sakura blooming will depend heavily on their location. Usually, the cherry blossom season in Japan only lasts for around two weeks in any given place, from first bloom to the final fallen petal.
We’ll tell you the best times to see cherry blossoms in Japan in 2021 at all of the top locations, as well as some off-the-beaten-track recommendations by our local insiders.
Official forecast: When is Japan’s 2021 cherry blossom season?
The official Japan 2021 cherry blossom forecast is out from Weather Map Japan. For 2021, they predict that the trees will be in peak bloom in Kochi on March 31, Tokyo on March 28, Fukuoka on March 30, Kyoto and Osaka on April 3, Hiroshima on April 4, Wakayama on March 31, Kagoshima on April 6, Aomori on April 27, and Sapporo on May 4.
As you can see, Japan’s cherry blossom season generally starts in mid to late March, and lasts through to early May. However, different parts of the country experience sakura season at different times. The south begins sooner, while up in Hokkaido people can still see sakura petals falling long after they’ve faded in other parts of the nation. If you’re serious about planning your trip around blossoming times, consult the official sakura forecast.
Where to see cherry blossoms in Japan
Cherry blossom season in Tokyo
Tokyo is the biggest city in Japan, and as a result it’s one of the most popular places to see cherry blossoms. There are a few major locations around the centre of the city that are guaranteed to have some spectacular viewing spots – and also some spectacular crowds.
We’d be remiss to tell you not to go to Tokyo just because it’s busy, though. It’s an amazing city full of contrasts, defined by hyper-modern conveniences and ancient traditions. It also has some of the most iconic cherry blossom viewing locations in all of Japan. Try to visit relatively early in the morning or during non-busy times.
Iconic Japanese cherry blossom viewing location(s): Ueno Park, Chidorigafuchi, Inokashira Park
Off-the-beaten track option: Senzokuike Lake
Cherry blossom season in Osaka, Nara, and Kyoto
Kyoto is ancient, scenic, and known for its beautiful natural surroundings. It’s also one of the most visited cities in Japan, to the point where there has been some local resistance to mass tourism due to the effects of overcrowding. That’s not to say you shouldn’t go to Kyoto, but it’s worth keeping in mind that many other people will have the same idea. Visiting a site like Kiyomizudera during sakura season is memorable, both for how beautiful it is and how many people there are – locals and visitors alike.
Nara is also beautiful, and slightly less-known than its western counterpart. It’s a 30-minute train ride away from Osaka, and is actually Japan’s oldest capital – holding the title before Kyoto had it. Known mostly for its plentiful roaming deer, not many people know it has a small scenic lake surrounded by cherry blossom trees. Seeing some of the country’s most ancient temples and monuments with blossoms all around them is stunning, and we highly recommend it.
Iconic Japanese cherry blossom viewing location(s): Kiyomizudera, Philosopher’s Walk, Yodogawa Riverside Park (Kyoto)
Off-the-beaten track option: Nara Park (Nara)
Cherry blossom season in Northern Japan
Prefectures in the north of Japan tend to experience cherry blossoms later, meaning they enjoy evenings of hanami while their southern neighbours are already getting their handheld fans and sweat towels ready for summer. Several northern prefectures also feature lower tourist numbers than more well-known locations, and since Hokkaido is most known for its wintertime activities, people often overlook that it’s secretly one of the best places to view cherry blossoms in the country.
Iconic Japanese cherry blossom viewing location(s): Moerenuma Park, Maruyama Park, Nijukken Road (Hokkaido).
Off-the-beaten track option: Goryokaku (Hakodate)
Cherry blossom season in Southern Japan
It’s hotter in the south, and cherry blossom season comes faster. The main benefit is that you’ll be among the first to see them in the whole country. The disadvantage is that they might be gone by the time everyone else gets them. When the sakura starts blooming in Kyushu, the rest of the nation knows that their turn will come soon.
Iconic Japanese cherry blossom viewing location(s): Nishi Park, Uminonakamichi Seaside Park (Fukuoka)
Off-the-beaten track option: Mt. Shiude (Kagawa)
Top tips for cherry blossom viewing in Japan:
Do what the locals do: bring a picnic blanket or a tarp, and place it underneath the most majestic tree you can find
Carry cash with you – many parks will have food vendors selling special seasonal snacks, who generally don’t accept credit cards
Make sure you try as many limited edition sakura-flavoured products as possible
Plan and book your trip well in advance for the best experience – spring is a popular time to visit Japan!
What else is there to do during cherry blossom season in Japan?
If you’re coming to Japan for cherry blossom season in 2021, there’s a good chance you’ll be arriving in either Tokyo or Osaka. Make the most of your trip by visiting some of the amazing museums and attractions wherever you land – and take the time to admire artistic impressions of cherry blossoms in museums as well their real-life inspirations. Check out the best things to see in Tokyo, and if you’re in Osaka, don’t miss out on one of the best aquariums in the world.