Cherry blossom season in Japan really is nothing short of spectacular, and if you’re reading this article, you’re probably looking at how to make the most of your visit. While no two seasons are the same, and it’s near impossible to predict exactly when and for how long the trees will bloom, the one thing that is constant is that spring in Japan really is something special. If you’ve been to Japan to witness to sakura bloom and have any tips of your own, feel free to drop a comment below!
1. Timing is everything – Unless you’re one of the 126 million people living in Japan, you probably don’t have the luxury of time to wait around for the cherry blossoms to reach full bloom. That’s why timing is everything. Unfortunately, the timing of Japan’s cherry blossom season is completely weather dependent, so you’ll either need to be lucky or have some flexibility in your travel plans. Traditionally, the end of March and beginning of April is prime time for sakura viewing. A 1-week trip should be enough to catch at least part of the blooming process. If you can plan for 2-weeks, you’ve got a pretty good chance of seeing the full cycle. This site is really helpful in mapping out a travel route, as it gives you estimated bloom dates around the country.
2. Book early – Sakura season has got to be one of the busiest times in Japan. It’s no secret that spring time is special in Japan, and people from all over the world are planning to check it off their bucket list just like you. The more flexibility you have, the better. But remember, the Sakura aren’t going to wait for you. Book hotels and flights early. Plan to arrive a few days before the estimated bloom date, and give yourself some extra time after full bloom just in case. Don’t stress about pre-booking shinkansen tickets. There are more than enough seats year round, and you can easily secure seats the day before (and often the same day) you wish to travel.
3. It’s not all about full bloom – Cherry blossom trees are definitely at their most spectacular when full bloom. However, witnessing the buds first appear is special, and it adds to the excitement of what’s about to come!
4. Plan a picnic – Do as the locals do and plan to have a picnic under the sakura trees at one of the countless parks around the country. Pickup a blue tarp and some snacks from the local 7-11 or Lawsons, and secure a spot early. You’ll want to arrive well before lunch time when everyone comes with the same intention as you, and be prepared to get friendly with some strangers.
5. Do some people watching – It’s easy to get caught up in the cherry blossom hype and fill your camera’s memory card with a few hundred (or thousand if you’re us) shots of flowers that all look rather similar to one another. Part of the experience of being in Japan at this time of year though is that you can literally feel the excitement of spring in the air. The locals go selfie crazy (even more so than usual), and the warm weather brings everyone out of their homes and offices, and into the parks again. Spring is a special time in Japan. Take your eyes off the flowers for a bit and plan to do some people watching. You won’t regret it!