Cherry Blossom Season in Japan
There are two words you need to know if travelling to Japan in spring: sakura and hanami. Sakura is the Japanese word for cherry blossom, while hanami refers the act of viewing these flowers in bloom. Japan’s cherry blossom season runs between late March and early May each year; leaving the country enveloped in a coat of pink sakura. The cherry blossom signifies renewal (spring time), and the beautiful, yet delicate, fleeting nature of life (the cherry flower is dazzling, yet only has a lifespan of around 2 weeks). Their symbolism and beauty are so ingrained in Japanese tradition they have inspired countless paintings, songs and haiku’s (Japanese short-form poems). While cherry blossoms can be seen in various locations around the country, some spots are better than others to experience hanami at its best.
Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tokyo
Best time for hanami in Tokyo: Late March to mid-April
In season, around 800 cherry trees bloom along the Meguro River; making it one of the most picturesque spots in cherry blossom season. You can enjoy a 4km walk from Meguro Bridge to Shimomeguro, taking in the beauty of the blossoming flowers, while popping into the quaint shops along the way.
- Location: Meguro River, Tokyo
- Nearest station: Meguro Station/Nakameguro Station/Ikejiri-ohashi Station
- Best time to visit: Go early in the morning as it can get very busy later in the day.
- Travelex secret tip: If you want to experience a traditional Japanese festival, don’t miss the Nagameguro Cherry Blossom Festival which takes place on Saturday 8th April near Nakameguro Station. Meguro East Area Sakura Festival is another great one to check out - it takes place on 7th – 8th April at Tagaido Hiroba Park.
Ueno Park has long been a traditional favourite for cherry blossom viewing. Join the locals who sit under the cherry trees and picnic while enjoying a drink or two (yes you can drink in Ueno Park!). If a hanami party is not your thing, head to one of the many museums within the park grounds, including the Tokyo National Museum, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, the National Science Museum or the National Museum for Western Art.
- Location: 5-20 Uenokoen, Taito-ku, Tokyo
- Nearest station: The park is just next Ueno Station
- Best time to visit: Wake up early, grab a tea or coffee and head to the park before 9am to see the trees before the crowds get there.
- Travelex secret tip: After hanami, visit the Ameyoko Shopping Street to find cheap souvenirs, shopping and delicious local Japanese food!
On the northwest side of the Imperial Palace lies Chidorigafuchi. This old moat is a photographers dream, and one of the most beautiful spots to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo. Walk along a pedestrian path or rent a boat and paddle under the hundreds of cherry trees that line the banks of Chidorigafuchi Park.
- Location: 2 Chome Kudanminami, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
- Nearest station: Kudanshita Station
- Best time to visit: If you can, visit on a weekday to avoid the crowds, and nab yourself a paddle boat!
- Travelex secret tip: If you are planning to visit the Tokyo Imperial Palace on the same day, don’t forget to book online via the Imperial Household Agency website.
Top Cherry Blossom Spots in West Japan
Best time for hanami in West Japan: Late March to early-April
Himeji Castle – Hyogo
Registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993, and one of the few war-surviving castles in Japan, the Himeji Castle built in the 1300’s is one of the most spectacular landmarks in Japan. With more than 1,000 cherry trees of differing varieties (Yoshino cherry, Yaezakura and weeping cherry) planted around the castle, it’s a great place for hanami.
- Location: 68 Honmachi, Himeji-shi, Hyogo
- Nearest station: Around a 15 minute walk from Himeji Station or Sanyo Himeji Station
- Best time to visit: This spot is usually always busy during peak cherry blossom season; so to secure a good picnic spot under the trees, make sure you head there early!
- Travelex secret tip: Head to the Sannomaru through the Otemon Gate. It’s free entry and a great spot for taking pictures of the castle, as well as viewing the blossoming cherry trees.
Kema Sakuranomiya Park - Osaka
Around 4,800 cherry trees blossom in this riverside park every year. Osaka Castle and historical buildings from the early Meiji Period line the river; making Sakuranomiya Park the perfect place to view the flowering cherry trees as well as some of Japans historical scenery.
- Location: Nakano-cho, Kanoshima-ku, Osaka
- Nearest station: Sakuranomiya Station
- Best time to visit: A popular weekend picnic spot, try visit during week days for less of a crowd.
- Travelex secret tip: Take a cruise along the Okawa River and enjoy the cherry blossoms by water (the reflections of the sakura in the water make for an amazing holiday snap!)
Gion Shirakawa - Kyoto
Lined with cherry blossoms, old-style wooden restaurants, inns and tea houses, Gion Shirakawa is perhaps the most beautiful street in Kyoto. Being one of the largest geisha districts, you may run into a geisha or maiko – an apprentice geisha - dressed in traditional Kimonos, walking along the old cobblestone streets.
- Location: Gion Shirakawa
- Nearest station: Gion Shijo Station
- Best time to visit: Head there after dark to see the streets awash with light for a unique view of the sakura.
- Travelex secret tip: If you spot a geisha or maiko act respectfully and ask permission before taking any photos.