Cherry blossom in Japan, or sakura (in Japanese), has long been adored by people across the globe. The advent of Spring season in Japan is synonymous with the arrival of blooms blanketing the nation with various shades of white and pink. These famous cherry blossoms draw epic-sized crowds from around the globe, all eager to be a part of this quintessential hanami experience. It is regarded as a symbol of renewal, vitality, and beauty. During the spring season of each year, thousands travel to Japan to view the wondrous spectacle of these white or pink flowers blooming en masse.
In this article you will find all the details that you need about Cherry Blossom in Japan:
- What is Hanami
- Forecast for 2018: best time to view Cherry Blossom in Japan (updated every year)
- Best places for viewing Cherry Blossom in Japan
- Top places in Tokyo
- Top places around Tokyo
- Top places in other parts of Japan
Hanami: Cherry Blossom picnic in Japan
“What is Hanami ?”
Well, in the literal sense of it, ‘hana’ means ‘flowers’ and ‘mi’ means ‘to see/view’. So, put together, ‘hanami‘ means ‘flower viewing‘, especially the Cherry Blossom (known as Sakura in Japanese). But this explanation / translation doesn’t do any justice to Japan’s ‘Craze for Sakura’. Cherry blossom in Japan is much more than just a few flowers. It’s hard to explain to those who haven’t experienced it, but during the cherry blossom season it’s like the whole country is swept by a sort of festival atmosphere that lasts from the first flowering down in southerly Okinawa until the last petal drops in northern Hokkaido.
From a cultural point of view, cherry blossom in Japan also symbolize the transience of life, which is a major theme in Buddhism. The cherry-blossom tree is known for its short but brilliant blooming season, a natural process that metaphorically describes human life.
So, in short, ‘hanami‘ refers to a picnic party to enjoy cherry blossoms with food and drinks mainly beer. As it is with any other Japanese festival, there are some manners and ‘unsaid’ rules to have a Hanami party. And a good preparation may help you to enjoy the party even more. Staying in Japan and attending several Hanami picnics, I learned three basic (but essential) Hanami Etiquettes:
1. BYOB (Bring your own beer).
2. Take your own trash
3. Take your shoes off (when on the blue tarp)
Although, Cherry blossom marks the advent of speinfg in Japan, Hanami isnt the only thing to do in Japan. There are many other things to do in Japan during spring season like visiting Nikko, or taking a trip to any of the beer gardens etc.
When is Cherry Blossom season in Japan:
Blossoming of the pink flowers marks the advent of spring, but the exact dates to get the best possible view is different from city-to-city. The JNTO website gives live update of the date/time for different places across the country.
UPDATE: Here is the Cherry Blossom forecast for 2018
Best places for viewing Cherry Blossom in Japan:
Given below is a list of 12 places in Japan that I have found to be among the best.
Top Places in Tokyo:
1. Shinjuku Gyoen: One of the largest and most popular public parks in the capital. Having over 1,500 cherry trees inside, Shinjuku Gyoen is coated in soft pink during the cherry season. However, the downside with a popular spot is always the crowd. Like me, even you may not be lucky to get a photo without others in the frame, but the happy atmosphere is rewarding! The park opens from 9am to 4:30pm during the season, so make sure you get there before sunset.
2. Ueno Park: Another very busy park filled with over 1200 sakura trees and locals having the blossom party either side. Take a walk to experience the celebrating vibe; chances are you are invited to join the party along! The 2017 Ueno Cherry Blossom Festival was held from late March to early April.
3. Chidorigafuchi Moat:If you have experienced a couple of springs in Japan (esp. Tokyo), and would like to enjoy Hanami at the next level, Rowing a boat on Chidorigafuchi moat is the answer. The Chidorigafuchi moat in the Imperial Palace is one of the most popular Sakura spots in Tokyo, combine it with the boating, it’s a whole new experience.
If you are in Tokyo, you can check out these places to stay in Tokyo. Also, there are tonnes of things to do, hence it will be a good idea to sort out the best way to spend 24 hours in Tokyo.
Top 2 around Tokyo:
1. Chureito Pagoda
2. Sankeien Garden
Top 7 in other parts of Japan:
1. Mount Yoshinoyama: With over 30,000 sakura trees (some of which are over 1000 years old) Mount Yoshino (or Yoshinoyama), in Nara Prefecture, is widely regarded as the “ultimate” place to view Cherry blossom in Japan.
2. Philosopher’s Path: The Philosopher’s Path, in Kyoto, begins at Ginkaku-ji and goes upto Nazenji with thousands of trees lined up. It’s a gorgeous place to go for a stroll when the cherry trees are in full bloom. Pink blossoms hang down over a narrow, cobblestone path, following close beside a gentle flowing canal at the base of the Higashiyama.
3. Hanamiyama Park: HanamiYama Park, regarded by many as the “Eden in Fukushima”, is privately-owned horticulture farmland that has been opened to the public as a park.
4. Kema Sakuranomiya Park: The several kilometers long banks of the Okawa River has endless rows of cherry trees (nearly 5000) that can be viewed from a pleasant riverside promenade or from ships cruising the river.
5. Osaka Castle: With over 4000 sakura trees planted on the spacious grounds of Osaka Castle, it makes for another nice place for a picnic. Also, don’t miss the views of the castle tower lighted up in the evening.
Although the castle looks spectacular during the cherry blossom season, visiting the museum inside it is also one of the prime things to do in Osaka all year round.
6. Matsuyama Castle: Similar to the Osaka castle, the Matsuyama castle also has hundreds of sakura tress planted in the castle garden. The view from the castle tower over the trees and the city beyond is remarkable.
7. Miyajima Island walking trails:Famous for its “floating” torii gate, the small island of Miyajima has over 1500 sakura trees and at full-bloom, the walking trails are one of the best for Cherry blossom.