Every spring, thousands of cherry blossom trees begin flowering in Japan, transforming much of the country into a fairytale landscape. The trees bloom at different times in different parts of Japan, luring travellers to follow the flowering across the island nation. The Japanese consider the ethereal blooms, called sakura, a reminder to appreciate the fragility of life. They even have viewing picnics (called hanami) in parks to bask in the glory of the pale pink, lilac, and white blooms.
Since sakura lasts only a few weeks every year, timing is everything when planning a trip. According to the Japanese Meteorological Department, Tokyo will see the first blooms around March 22, 2017 that will peak by March 31. The best places in the city to soak in the splendour are Shinjuku Gyoen and Ueno Park (use our handy Tokyo guide for more recommendations).
In Kyoto, the cherry blossoms will make their first appearance around March 28, and will continue blooming until around April 5. The city’s Philosopher’s Path is definitely the best place to experience the blossoms—trees line both sides of an aqueduct creating a surreal natural tunnel. In the city of Osaka too, the blooming will begin around end-March; catch the spectacle at the Osaka Castle, which has over 600 cherry trees and over 95 varieties of apricot flowers on its grounds. If you’re looking to travel a little later, visit Hokkaido in early May to catch the flowers in action.
To see the entire sakura calendar from the Japanese Meteorological Department, click here.