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Cherry Blossoms in Japan Forecast


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When we talk about GORGEOUS cherry blossoms, the first place that comes to mind is Japan. Due to its popularity and deep-rooted association with Japanese culture, the cherry blossom or Sakura became the unofficial flower of the country.

For first time visitors, it can be overwhelming with all the must-dos, must-knows, and must-try things in Japan, when all you want to see are the pink blossoms, and of course, experience a little bit of the culture.

When did the cherry blossoms bloom in 2019?

Beautiful Cherry blossoms in maizuru castle park

The appearance of cherry blossoms in 2019 were earlier than expected than in 2018, and was attributed to the weather changes.

In Tokyo, the cherry blossoms appeared on April 1 and fully bloomed on April 7. Osaka’s first bloom was seen on April 3 and the full bloom was on April 9. Kyoto witnessed the first opening of the cherry blossom last April 4 and reached full bloom on April 10.

Kanazawa saw the first opening of the cherry blossom last April 6 and the peak bloom on April 12. A day later, April 13 saw the first opening of the flower in Fuji Five Lakes and bloomed fully on April 19.

For Hakodate and Sapporo, the first openings were seen later – on May 2 and 6 respectively. While the full bloom was seen on May 8 and 12 respectively.

When is the cherry blossom set to bloom in 2020?

Hiking Mt Tenjo in Lake Kawaguchi cherry blossoms

For this year 2020, the cherry blossom season is expected to arrive earlier than 2019 as winter in Japan have been warmer than normal. And because of that, the arrival of spring, and the cherry blossoms, should be earlier than last year.

Japan’s Cherry Blossom Forecast for 2020

In this section, I will mention notable cherry blossom viewing places for each region and their expected blossoming and peak bloom.

Remember that these are just forecasted dates and is in no way an exact science. That way you can plan your trip (and clothes) accordingly.

Cherry blossoms are said to be fickle. This means it can be difficult to predict when the flowers first opens and when it will reach its peak bloom. Due to the combination of various weather factors such as the wind, region, temperature and rain, the duration of the bloom is also affected.

1. Hokkaido

For Hokkaido, the notable cherry blossom viewing places include Sapporo and Hakodate.

Blossom openingPeak bloom
Sapporo: May 1
Hakodate: April 30
Sapporo: May 5
Hakodate: May 3

2. Tohoku

For Tohoku, the notable cherry blossom viewing places are Akita and Fukushima.

Blossom openingPeak bloom
Akita: April 14
Fukushima: April 22
Akita: April 19
Fukushima: April 27

3. Kanto

For Kanto, the notable cherry blossom viewing places are Tokyo and Yokohama.

Blossom openingPeak bloom
Tokyo: March 16
Yokohama: March 22
Tokyo: March 24
Yokohama: March 30

4. Chubu

For Chubu, the notable cherry blossom viewing places are Fuji Five Lakes and Nagano.

Blossom openingPeak bloom
Fuji Five Lakes: April 5
Nagano: April 15
Fuji Five Lakes: April 11
Nagano: April 20

5. Kinki (or Kansai)

For Kinki (also known as Kansai), the notable cherry blossom viewing places are Kyoto and Nara.

Blossom openingPeak bloom
Kyoto: March 20
Nara: March 24
Kyoto: March 29
Nara: March 31

6. Chugoku

For Chugoku, the notable cherry blossom viewing places are Okayama and Hiroshima.

Blossom openingPeak bloom
Hiroshima : March 20
Okayama: March 23
Hiroshima: March 30
Okayama: March 31

7. Shikoku

For Shikoku, the notable cherry blossom viewing places are Tokushima and Kochi.

Blossom openingPeak bloom
Kochi: March 19
Tokushima: March 26
Kochi: March 27
Tokushima: April 3

8. Kyushu

For Kyushu, the notable cherry blossom viewing places are Fukuoka, Nagasaki, and Kagoshima.

Blossom openingPeak bloom
Fukuoka: March 21
Nagasaki: March 24
Kagoshima: April 1
Fukuoka: March 30
Nagasaki: April 3
Kagoshima: April 12

As you can see, the time between initial bloom and peak bloom is very short. Soon after peak bloom the petals will turn white and begin to fall.

This process is accelerated if it’s a particularly windy season, so your timeframe to view the blossoms is very short.

Where are the best places to see cherry blossoms in Japan

1. Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokyo

Shinjuku Gyoen Park during cherry blossoms

Best time: late March to early April

Located at the center of Tokyo, this 58 hectare national garden hosts approximately one thousand cherry trees of different varieties. If you have failed to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom, then walking around this park can still give you the chance to witness the other varieties bloom.

2. Chureito Pagoda, Fuji Five Lakes

Chureito Pagoda near Lake Kawaguchi during cherry blossoms

Best time: early to mid April

Picture perfect is the best way to describe this place which is surrounded by cherry blossoms. It is a UNESCO heritage site and offers one of the best views of Mount Fuji. At night, it gets even more magical as the trees are illuminated with red and white lanterns.

3. Goryokaku Park, Hakodate

Goryokaku Park in Hakodate during cherry blossoms
Shawn.ccf /Depositphotos.com

Best time: late April to early May

Even without the cherry blossoms, the Goryokaku Park is a recommended visit in Hakodate. This park has a unique star-shaped moat fort and an observation tower, giving you a unique view of the trees.

4. Matsumoto Castle, Nagano

Matsumoto Castle during cherry blossoms

Best time: Mid-April

Considered one of Japan’s national treasures, Matsumoto Castle is one of the country’s most grandiose and well preserved castles. Originally built in the 15th century, it is surrounded by numerous cherry trees, and from a distance, gives you a breathtaking view of the mountains.

5. Philosopher’s Path, Kyoto

Philosophers Path in Kyoto during cherry blossoms

Best time: Late March – Early April

This almost 2 km path was named after one of Japan’s famous philosophers, Nishida Kitaro, who used to walk this path on his way to Kyoto University. The path which starts around Ginkakuji and ends in the Nanzenji area has a canal that is filled with cherry trees that makes it one of the most popular spots for Hanami.

6. Mount Yoshino, Nara

Mount Yoshino in Nara during cherry blossoms

Best time: Early April

This mountain, which has about thirty thousand cherry trees, has been among the most visited spots for cherry blossom viewing for centuries. It offers you the whole package – trekking, temple visits, shrines and hanami parties, all in just one location.

7. Himeji Castle, Himeji

Himeji Castle during cherry blossoms
sepavone /Depositphotos.com

Best time: Late March – Mid April

Another UNESCO heritage site, the majestic white Himeji Castle and its grounds is filled with over a thousand cherry trees making it among the most popular cherry blossom viewing sites in Himeji. You can also explore the inner grounds and the interior of the castle itself.

8. Hanayamiyama Park, Fukushima

Hanayamiyama Fukushima

Best time: mid April to late April

If you don’t mind hiking then visiting the Hanayamiyama Park during the cherry blossom season is highly suggested. Not only you can see cherry trees and its blooms, but this privately owned park features a lot of other flowering plants as well.

9. Miharu Takizakura, Fukushima

Miharu Takizakura in Fukushima
Credit for image © JNTO

Best time: Mid April

While you are in Fukushima, make sure to visit the single cherry tree considered by many as the most beautiful cherry tree in entire Japan. This tree, which is said to be more than a thousand years old, looks like a cascading waterfall with expansive branches filled with the pale pink blooms during the full bloom season.

10. Kakunodate, Akita

Hinokinai River in Kakunodate Akita

Best time: Late April to Early May

In the Edo period, due to the different samurai families’ effort to outdo each other in terms of the most beautiful cherry trees, weeping cherry trees were imported from Kyoto and planted along the bank of the Hinokinai River. Making this one of the best locations to view this variation of trees in Japan.

11. Hirosaki Castle, Hirosaki

Hirosaki Castle Park in Hirosaki during cherry blossoms

Best time: Late April to early May

Listed as one of Japan’s top cherry blossom viewing areas, the Hirosaki Castle has around 3000 cherry trees of more than 50 varieties. Over 2 million people visit this Castle yearly to participate in the annual Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival.

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What’s the weather like during cherry blossom season in Japan?

Cherry blossom season in Japan means spring. During these months, the temperature starts to rise and the weather becomes bearable.

In March, the temperature ranges from 15C (60F) for the average high, and 6C (43F) for the average low. The average temperature increases as summer approaches, and it may be as high as 25C (77F) or as low as 16C (60F) in May.

So depending on your arrival date, you’ll need to dress appropriately. What I’ve learned throughout the years in Japan is to dress in layers. This means I have my core pants or shirts on and I can remove or add layers easily as the temperature starts to drop or increase.

Since March is just the first month of spring, I suggest still bringing a winter jacket, scarf, hat and gloves if you plan to visit in March. During the day, particularly when there is sunlight, the temperature is bearable. But as the sun sets you’ll feel the cold quickly.

You can easily stash your winter accessories in your bag to make it accessible (refer to this article for Japan packing recommendations). Just be prepared for the cold, particularly if you are visiting from a tropical country. Better to be safe than sorry!

April and May are the most convenient months. But due to climate change, it is difficult to predict the weather. You can choose to bring a light jacket (and of course some layers, just in case). Also add a scarf if you are prone to being chilly!

Other tips I would suggest is to bring an umbrella. Although you can easily buy one for between 100 to 1000 yen in convenient stores, it is better to bring a sturdy foldable one that you can keep with you all the time.

As for the jackets, I suggest bringing waterproof ones to protect you from getting wet in the case of a sudden rain, which is common during spring in Japan. I particularly like wearing boots or comfortable sneakers while walking around during cherry blossom seasons.

Remember that you will be walking a lot, so make sure that your shoes are comfortable but sturdy!

How long do the cherry blossoms in Japan last?

Short answer, between 1 to 2 weeks. The long answer is that cherry blossoms last differently based on tree variety and the region of Japan you visit.

Some can bloom as early as April while some bloom as late as May. The blossoming of the flowers normally starts from the southern region of Japan and goes upwards to the north.

If this is your first time visiting Japan for the cherry blossoms, you have to be familiar with two important terms – kaika and mankai.

Kaika refers to the first opening of the cherry blossoms. The full bloom, which is called mankai normally, happens after or within a week of the kaika.

This means, from the kaika to mankai you have a week to enjoy the blooms. After the full bloom, when the fresh green leaves start to grow and the petals begin to turn white and fall.

This is known as the hazakura. This usually signals the transition or change of the season from spring to summer.

You have to remember though that cherry blossoms are fickle, and their beauty is fleeting. A change in temperature, rainfall or wind can greatly affect the longevity of the blooms.

This makes it more difficult to set an exact time when the full bloom happens. Most people arrive from abroad between the last week of March and first week of April.

Most common cherry tree you’ll see in Japan

As a first timer in Japan, you’d think that cherry blossoms are just that – cherry blossoms. But for someone who has been here for a long time, I have learned to distinguish the different types of trees and their blooms.

Here are the three most common in Japan (and what to look out for):

1. Somei Yoshino (Yoshino Cherry)

Throughout Japan, the most common and also most popular type of cherry blossom is the Yoshino Cherry. The blooming season varies. It can bloom as early as late March in areas like Kyushu. While in Tokyo, it often blooms between mid to late April.

In northern areas, it often takes until May for this variety to bloom. This cherry tree produces a five-petal flower which appears to be white at a distance, but upon close inspection is actually pale pink.

The flowers are clustered together and look a bit like cotton balls from a distance. The oldest recorded Yoshino tree is in Hiroshi Park in the Aomori Prefecture, and was planted in the 1800s.

2. Yamazakura (Hill Cherry)

Another name for the Yamazakura is the Hill Cherry. This variety is commonly seen in Japan’s mountainous areas (yama means “mountain” in Japanese).

The flowers of the Yamazakura and Yoshino are quite similar, as both have five petal pale pink flowers, but this variety has much smaller petals.

However, you can also see the difference on other tree parts. The Yamazakura has a thick trunk – often reaching to 1 meter in diameter; and the flowers typically open the same time as the leaves. The full bloom goes between March and April.

The oldest recorded Yamazakura tree can be found in Kogonji Temple in Tokyo which is estimated to be about 400 years old.

3. Shidarezakura (Weeping Cherry)

The Weeping Cherry is probably one of the easiest to identify among the cherry trees, and gets its name because of its drooping branches, similar to willow tree. It’s also the most beautiful cherry trees, in my opinion.

The flowers usually bloom early in the season – from late March to mid-April – compared to the other two, and the flower colors range from rich pink to fuchsia in color.

This tree has two sub varieties – one with 5 petals and one with more than 5 petals. The oldest Shidarezakura can be found in Fukushima Prefecture and is said to be more than a thousand years old.

Best places to see cherry blossoms in Japan

Last Minute Essentials for Your Trip to Japan

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