Chances are high if you’re visiting Japan in the spring time that you’ve got one thing on your mind.
The Cherry Blossom.
Japanese Cherry Blossom, or Sakura (桜) is without a doubt some of the most popular ‘tourist attractions’ in the whole of Japan.
But are they really worth travelling thousands of miles to see?
Let’s take a look…
What month are the cherry blossom in Japan?
Trying to figure out exactly when the cherry blossom in Japan are going to bloom is often like finding a needle in a haystack. However, if you’re in the country from mid- March to early April you’re likely to be able to spot these incredible flowers.
What is so special about cherry blossoms?
Cherry blossom aren’t just beautiful works of nature, they also hold extreme significance in Japanese culture.
I’ve been to Japan a number of times and only been able to see either the end or beginning of their blooming. It’s only for around 1 week that they’re truly ‘perfect’.
Are cherry blossoms only in Japan?
Nope. So technically you don’t have to go all the way to Japan to see them.
If you live anywhere near Washington D.C. and are struggling to get to Japan, this is one of the best places to see cherry blossom in America.
Just look how beautiful they are!
Pros of seeing cherry blossom in Japan
1. The cherry blossom are beautiful in full bloom
As I’ve said before, I’ve seen part of the cherry blossoms a few times in Japan and they were absolutely stunning.
Not only were they pretty much everywhere, but the colours completely overtook the Japanese urban landscape I was accustomed to.
And the craziest thing?
None of these times were the true full bloom everyone raves about!
I honestly struggle to imagine how much more pink these little flowers can get!
2. The weather
If you’re visiting Japan for the cherry blossom, you’re going to be taking your holiday in the Spring, my favourite season.
One big bonus to having your Holiday in the spring is the incredible weather you’ll likely be given throughout your stay.
Not too hot, not too cold.
I’ve included a photo I took a few years ago whilst travelling through Japan that sort of shows how beautiful the light is in spring.
It’s a little hard to explain without actually experiencing it for yourself, but the light falls on the ground like nowhere I’ve ever been before.
I dunno, maybe I sound a little mad. But go and experience it for yourself before you call me crazy!
3. Sakura culture throughout Japan
If it’s cherry blossom season, you can bet anything you like that the commercial side of Japan will be taking full advantage of the fact.
Last year Starbucks released a cherry blossom Frappuccino and other themed goodies to go along side it.
You can pretty much expect loads of themed menu items, clothing, adverts, food, etc throughout your stay in Japan if you visit during the sakura season. I absolutely loved it!
It’s like a ‘Secret’ side of Japan comes out for a couple of months a year and lets you try or buy limited edition versions of everything.
Right up my street!
4. Hanami – Flower Viewing
One of the biggest benefits of travelling to Japan to see the cherry blossom in Spring is that you’ll be able to partake in a yearly Japanese tradition called Hanami.
Hanami, or flower viewing, is the Japanese tradition of of admiring the cherry blossom during springtime.
It entails gathering under the cherry blossom with family and friends, and sharing food, drink, and happy memories.
If you have the chance to experience this when you travel to Japan, make sure you go to a local park for a slightly less busy experience.
It’ll be well worth your time!
Cons of seeing cherry blossom in Japan
1. Your holiday dates will have to be flexible
One of the most common problems of travelling to Japan purely to see the cherry blossom is that they don’t bloom at the same time each year.
Miss the full bloom by even a day, like I’ve done many times, and you’ll likely have to wait another year to see them at their best.
So even if you plan your holiday around the end of march, it isn’t guaranteed that you’ll see the blossom that year.
A little bit like the aurora, it’s sadly a possibility that you may never see the blossom as beautiful as nature intended.
2. Your plans when you’re in Japan will need to be flexible
Not only is the exact date of cherry blossom never certain, it also changes depending how far up or down the country you are.
So, if you’ve got to Japan a bit later than you planned, or the cherry blossom season is earlier than forecast, you may find yourself having to travel further up the country than you’d hoped for.
Of course, this is only something you’re likely to do if seeing the cherry blossom is the only reason you’ve come to Japan.
They’re beautiful, yes, but not worth ruining your itinerary over.
3. Other attractions throughout Japan will likely be busier
At even the slightest sign of Cherry blossom, popular tourist attractions are likely to be packed.
Japanese residents and foreign tourists likely have the same idea of exploring during spring. Couple that with golden week at the end of April and it’s unfortunately quite a busy time.
If thousands of people at a famous attraction doesn’t bother you, then it’s not something you have to worry about.
But if your idea of Japan is a zen paradise that’s peaceful 99% of the time, it’s probably a time you should avoid.
Having said that, if you’re visiting a slightly more rural area this shouldn’t be a problem. You might spend your days in a busy city, but you’ll know you have a quiet base to come home to every day.
4. Everything will be more expensive
Unfortunately as you’ll be visiting Japan at the most popular time of year, you can expect it to be reflected in the price.
This doesn’t have to be a huge holiday altering problem, but do make sure you’ve budgeted enough for the things you want and maybe a little extra just incase.
Still want to see the Cherry Blossom?
Springtime is beautiful in Japan but there are a few things to watch out for, like we’ve discussed above.
If you’re still determined to see them (which, let’s be honest you should be!) there’s a couple of things you should remember.
Here are my tips:
1. Don’t follow the crowd
Don’t lookup the best spots to see Japanese cherry blossom. This may sound counter intuitive but there’s a point to my madness.
If you look up the best places to see Sakura in Tokyo you’ll likely get suggestions like ‘Meguro River’ and ‘Chidorigafuchi’. Whilst they’re stunning examples of Japanese cherry blossom, they’re going to be absolutely packed.
Again, if lots of people don’t bother you then go right ahead. But if you’ve imagined Japan in a slightly different light, then it may ruin your image of the country.
What to do instead:
Ask a local and go for a walk
If you aren’t staying in central Tokyo, chances are that you don’t really know your way around.
Japan is full of extremely friendly people who genuinely want you to have a fantastic time in their country.
So make use of this by asking someone you meet.
Get your shoes on and go for a walk around a suburban area, ask a local where they normally view the cherry blossom, and you may even run into a secret location yourself if you walk far enough!
2. Don’t go just for the blossom
Don’t make the cherry blossom the main reason of your visit to Japan.
I know for some of you it will be the reason you want to go to, but Japan has so much to offer that even if you don’t get to see the flowers in full bloom I guarantee you won’t be dissapointed.
What to do instead:
See it as a bonus
Check out the visit section of the website for a load of ideas about how to plan your trip to Japan, fun things to do whilst you’re there, and how to make the most of your once in a life time trip.
Cherry blossom is just the beginning!
3. Explore the alternatives
Following on from the previous point
There are honestly so many different places to visit in Japan if you’re a flower or nature lover.
So many in fact that it’s absolutely worth me doing an entire blog post to show you!
Until that point, here are a few of the most famous cherry blossom alternatives in Japan that might be worth visiting.
Wisteria Tunnel – Kitakyushu
Admittedly quite a long way from Tokyo, but well worth the trek if you’re looking to explore a bit of the country.
Tickets for the wisteria tunnel in Kitakyushu are always ¥500 if purchased in advance, so it’s a pretty cheap day out if you manage to get down to Fukuoka.
Ashikaga Flower Park – Tochigi
Nice and close to Tokyo this time.
Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi is only 2hr 30mins from Tokyo by train so it’ll make and excellent day trip if you’re looking to avoid the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Hitsujiyama Park – Chichibu
Set in the foothills of mount Bukō, Hisujiyama Park in Chichibu is a great alternative to the cherry blossom in Japanese Springtime.
It’s quite a popular attraction with the locals at this time of year, but even so I still think it’ll be less chaotic than some of the famous cherry blossom viewing locations in Japan.
Hitachi Seaside Park – Hitachinaka
Last but not least on our list we have Hitachi Seaside park, in April with its beautiful display of nemophila flowers.
This is a great location to visit in Autumn too as it’s flowers are planted to bloom in each of the four seasons, giving a different experience each time!
So are the Cherry Blossom of Japan really worth seeing?
Absolutely they are.
You just need to be careful with your expectations and try not to follow the crowd!
Japan is always going to be popular and more expensive in spring, but that doesn’t need to stop you from having the holiday of your dreams.
A little preparation goes a long way!