Cherry Blossom Season in Japan Is Starting Soon—Here’s What to Know

The best places to see cherry blossoms, plus where to find some of the country’s top festivals.

White Himeji Castle with trees full of pink cherry blossoms in  foreground

Thanks to its white walls and resemblance to a bird in flight, Himeji Castle is also known as “White Heron Castle.”

Photo by Shutterstock

Each spring, Japan sees an increase in travel to the country. And rightfully so: It’s when Japan’s cherry trees, dormant through winter, burst for a few short weeks into shades of pink. As Japan’s national flower, the cherry blossom—or sakura, as it’s known in Japanese—is celebrated for its symbolism, its brief appearance a metaphor for the fleeting nature of life.

Here’s what to know about Japan’s 2024 cherry blossom season.

When is cherry blossom season in Japan?

Japan’s cherry blossoms first appear in February in Okinawa, the southernmost prefecture, and move northward, ending in early May in Hokkaido, the largest and northernmost prefecture.

Forecasts of the flowering and full bloom dates of trees depend on temperature patterns of the preceding autumn, but Japan’s Meteorological Corporation (JMC) monitors the trees and provides timely updates every few weeks on its site. Here’s the latest for 14 of the country’s most popular prefectures:

  • Kagoshima: 3/29 (forecasted flowering date); 4/9 (forecasted full bloom)
  • Fukuoka: 3/21 (forecasted flowering); 3/30 (forecasted full bloom)
  • Kochi: 3/19 (forecasted flowering); 3/27 (forecasted full bloom)
  • Hiroshima: 3/23 (forecasted flowering); 4/1 (forecasted full bloom)
  • Wakayama: 3/22 (forecasted flowering); 3/30 (forecasted full bloom)
  • Osaka: 3/24 (forecasted flowering); 4/1 (forecasted full bloom)
  • Kyoto: 3/22 (forecasted flowering); 3/31 (forecasted full bloom)
  • Nagano: 4/3 (forecasted flowering); 4/9 (forecasted full bloom)
  • Kanazawa: 3/29 (forecasted flowering); 4/5 (forecasted full bloom)
  • Tokyo: 3/21 (forecasted flowering); 3/28 (forecasted full bloom)
  • Sendai: 4/2 (forecasted flowering); 4/8 (forecasted full bloom)
  • Aomori: 4/17 (forecasted flowering); 4/21 (forecasted full bloom)
  • Nagoya: 3/19 (forecasted flowering date); 3/29 (forecasted full bloom)
  • Sapporo: 4/30 (forecasted flowering date); 5/3 (forecasted full bloom)
An empty footpath, the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto, passes beneath flowering cherry trees.

The Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto is one of the most popular places in the ancient capital to see cherry blossoms.

Photo by Shutterstock

Where are the best places to see cherry blossoms in Japan?

Here are some of the prime places to see cherry blossoms in Japan:

Mount Yoshino, Nara

Thanks to its range in elevation, Mount Yoshino’s 30,000 cherry trees bloom at different times, making it a popular place to see a range of colors.

Philosopher’s Path, Kyoto

This path, known in Japanese as Tetsugaku no Michi, winds along Kyoto’s famed Lake Biwa Canal. Blushing trees hang over the walkway, making it easy to feel, at turns, like you’re in a fairy tale.

Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokyo

With over 1,000 cherry trees of more than a dozen varieties, Shinjuku Gyoen offers a little something for everyone. (We’re partial to the somei yoshino trees adjacent to the park’s English garden.)

Kakunodate, Akita

Trees in this former samurai district were imported from Kyoto in the Edo period, between 1603 and 1868. Today, the large trees are known for their “weeping” qualities, with branches that drape from high above.

Lake Kawaguchi

One of the “Fuji Five Lakes,” Lake Kawaguchi—also known as Kawaguchi-ko—is backed by Mount Fuji. Head to the lakeside promenade on its northern shore for a view of the majestic mountain and cherry blossom trees.

Himeji Castle, Hyogo

With white wooden walls, Himeji resembles a heron in flight—so much so that it’s also known as Shirasagijo, or “White Heron Castle.” Come sakura season, the contrast of the white and pink is especially striking.

Hirosaki Castle Park, Aomori

This park, which surrounds Hirosakei Castle, one of the 12 remaining castle towers in Japan, is impossibly pretty. The grounds feature more than 2,600 trees and 50 varieties of cherry blossom (the oldest was planted in 1882).

Kyoto Botanical Gardens

This public garden—the oldest in Japan—was founded in 1924 and has an estimated 450 specimens of sakura. Writer Latria Graham visited in 2023 and was impressed by the diversity in size and color of the cherry blossom trees, reporting that the “Kanzan variety is large and showy, with hot-pink blooms that look closer to a rose than to its much smaller Yoshino kin.”

Small groups of people on lawn beneath pink flowering trees

Nagano is home to the Takato Cherry Blossom Festival, among other destinations.

Photo by Shutterstock

The best cherry blossom festivals in Japan

Sakura matsuri (cherry blossom festivals) are held throughout Japan come springtime, each with its own draws and distinguishing factors. Here are some of the top ones:

Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Festival

In Tokyo’s Nakameguro district, the more than 800 cherry trees lining the Meguro River turn pink and white, typically in early April. For the Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Festival, lanterns are lit in the evening, and the effect—the trees and their reflection on the river—is especially lovely. Even better? Food stalls sell snacks and pink champagne, so you can snack (and sip) as you take in the views.

Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival

Centered around the 17th-century Hirosaki Castle, the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival with some 2,600 trees on its grounds counts boat rentals and more than 200 stalls among its amenities. More than 1 million visitors arrive at this festival in the Aomori prefecture each spring (held annually April 23–May 5).

Takato Cherry Blossom Festival

The exclusive home of the Kohigan cherry tree, which has smaller, reddish petals, Takato celebrates the bloom of its 1,500 trees every year with a month-long festival in April. Illuminations of the trees are held every night after sunset and last until 10 p.m.

A large pond at Shinjuku Gyoen park, surrounded by cherry trees with pale pink blooms

Shinjuku Gyoen counts more than 1,000 cherry blossom trees within its park boundaries.

Photo by Shutterstock

How cherry blossoms are celebrated in Japan

Visit Japan during sakura season, and it’s easy to see the country’s devotion to the flower: There are special menus and seasonal candies, talk shows, and news reports.

There’s even a specific word, hanami, tied to the custom of picnicking beneath the cherry trees. It’s a hugely social time, where family and friends gather under the trees. Partaking in this pastime, popular since the 16th century, is easy: To reserve a spot, identify how many people will be in your party, and spread out a blanket. (Just be sure to not take more space than you need, which is considered rude.) Keep noise to a minimum, clean up your trash, and above all, never, ever touch the trees.

At night, some communities string lights and lanterns between the trees so people can enjoy the trees after dark. The events typically feature live music and stalls that sell snacks (like red bean mochi) and drinks such as Asahi beer dyed pink).

This article was originally published in 2020. It was updated on February 26, 2024 with new information.

Katherine LaGrave is a deputy editor at Afar focused on features and essays.
From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More From AFAR