Cherry Blossom in Japan: An Ultimate Guide to Hanami Viewing
Feb 01, 2024
Hanami is a cherished Japanese tradition that celebrates the blossoming of cherry (sakura) and plum (ume) trees. The festival spans from late March to early May, coinciding with the bloom of trees across Japan.
But, when and where to catch cherry blossoms? What kind of activities we will do? Let’s dive into our below article to have the answers.
How is Hanami Celebrated? 🎉
Hanami is celebrated through outdoor picnics under the enchanting Sakura trees. Nighttime hanami, known as yozakura, involves illuminating the blossoms with paper lanterns suspended from the trees. For those seeking a quieter experience, nighttime hanami offers a tranquil and less crowded atmosphere.
Yozakura, Tokyo’s best cherry blossom spots moonlight with the help of evening illuminations.
When & Where to Catch Cherry Blossoms
Annually, Japan witnesses the first cherry blossoms in Okinawa around January/February. The middle bloom occurs in March/April, with a final flourish in northern Hokkaido in May.
Beginning from mid-January till mid-February, Okinawa is the first region in Japan to see cherry blossom each year. Nakijin Castle, Nago Central Park, Yogi Park & Yaese Park are the most famous observing spots.
Also, tourists can drive to Mt. Yaedakein on the Motobu Peninsula to enjoy 4000 magnificent Kanhizakura. These are Taiwanese cherry trees planted alongside the trail to the mountaintop.
Enjoy beautiful pink sakura as you walk along a winding road to the 453-meter summit of Mt. Yaedake
On March 28 and lasting for 1 week, the cherry blooming season in the cities comprising Fukuoka, Osaka, Kyoto & Tokyo according to the forecast. The best spots for cherry blossom observing (hanami) in these cities include:
- Fukuoka: Nishi Park, Maizuru Park, Uminonakamichi Seaside Park and Atago Shrine.
- Osaka: Kema Sakuranomiya Park, Osaka Castle, and Osaka Mint Bureau.
- Kyoto: Himeji Castle, Philosopher’s Path, Maruyama Park, Arashiyama, Harada-en Garden and Daigoji Temple.
- Tokyo: Shinjuku Gyoen, Ueno Park, Sumida Park, Yoyogi Park, Asukayama Park, Inokashira Park and Koishikawa Botanical Garden.
Himeji Castle (姫路城) (Kyoto) is one of the best views to witness Cherry blossoms.
Check our 12 DAY WONDERFUL JAPAN to visit Himeji Castle – Japan’s best-preserved feudal castle
In early April, Nara an ancient capital can also offer you a great opportunity to catch cherry blossoms. The public Nara Park is the most beautiful site for Hanami. It is home to hundreds of freely roaming deer and is surrounded by nearly 2000 cherry trees.
Fukushima, in northern Japan, is your last chance for hanami if you missed it in the southern cities. Surrounding a rural farming community, Hanamiyama Park is recommended as the best picture-taking hanami spot in Fukushima.
In late April, Hokkaido is the last place to be warmed up in the spring. Located on the northernmost island in Japan, Hokkaido’s cherry blossoms bloom about a month later compared to Tokyo.
Hokkaido owns many beautiful hanami spots, and the four most popular of those are Hakodate’s Goryokaku, Matsumae Castle, and Moerenuma Park.
How To Hanami Like A Local?
Hanami is just a simple Japanese word that means “cherry blossom viewing”. Basically, hanami is a picnic. If you can get yourself a picnic spot, and friends, this means you are enjoying the cherry blossom in a real way. However, there are some etiquette rules you should follow:
Check if eating and drinking are allowed
Make sure your picnic spot permits barbecues or alcoholic beverages, if not, pack a hanami picnic with cold and pre-prepared food. Some parks even have no eating or drinking rules. So it is better if you’re going with friends as they’ll know local etiquette rules. Here is a list:
- Thin cushion for sitting, or a small folding chair
- Garbage bags
- Warm clothes
- Paper cups, plates, and disposable chopsticks
- Wet wipes/tissues
- Bottle opener / Wine opener
- Food & Drink
Make sure your picnic spot allows you to picnic before you set up.
Picnic spots are first-come-first-serve
Crowds are obvious if the weather is good. You may find it challenging to get a picnic spot, especially in the popular areas or during the peak blossom season. Arriving early (maybe from 5 am) is the best way to help you get a spot.
However, sometimes, the presence of cherry trees at any location does not mean you are allowed to picnic in this area. So be sure you are allowed to picnic there before you set up.
Take your shoes off
A picnic sheet on the ground is considered an inside area, so take off your shoes when you visit a friend’s mat. It is better if you wear shoes that are easy to take off and on.
Don’t mess with the trees
Take tons of photographs with cherry blossoms but do not touch them or break off a branch to take home. It’s completely disrespectful.
Take out your garbage
Be prepared to dispose of your garbage in your bags as some parks don’t have garbage collection capacity enough for the huge crowd. Treat your beautiful picnic spot where you’ve just spent such a wonderful time as though it’s your own home.
Hanami Facts You Should Know! 👏🌸
- The Sakura bloom lasts only a week, but different trees bloom at different times, allowing tourists to follow the pink at new locations!
- March 27th is known as “Sakura No Hi” (Cherry Blossom Day).
- There are over 600 hybrid and wild cherry blossom species in Japan.
- The Jindai Zakura is Japan’s oldest cherry blossom tree – it is over 2,000 years old.
- Sakura petals are edible! They are most commonly used to make Sakura Mochi.
As you know, cherry blossom season is a Japanese special spring feature, an embodiment of an age-old culture. Hopefully, you can use our travel guide to plan your next Japan trip and enjoy the quintessential beauty of this iconic flower.