Once the cherry blossom arrives in Japan, swathes of the country are bathed in pale pink light, with a heavenly scent and thousands of petals floating through the air. Depicted by countless artists and considered an emblem of the country, it is a magnificent sight and there is no doubt that cherry blossom season is the best time to visit.
Though it’s tricky to predict when cherry blossom will reach full bloom (mankai), you will still enjoy warm but mild weather and lots of spring cultural events.
To uncover the destinations that are the most popular for witnessing the sakura (cherry blossom) spectacle, Booking.com dug into its internal data.*
The cherry blossoms of Kyoto, a city of temples, sweeping gardens and resplendent imperial palaces, tend to bloom from the last week of March until the middle of April. Visit the huge, 70-year-old sakura tree weeping over the pond in Maruyama-koen Park, a popular spot for ‘hanami’, the Japanese tradition of welcoming spring with food, drink, and music. Or walk The Philosopher’s Walk, a canal lined with cherry blossoms, creating a dazzling, light-pink canopy and dappled sunshine.
A city celebrated for its humming party scene and great restaurants and street food, a trip to Osaka is fantastic place to be when the cherry blossom arrives. With thousands of trees planted along the Okawa River, the riverside promenades and gardens are great spots for enjoying the view. And Osaka Mint Bureau, the Japan Mint headquarters, opens its extensive grounds to the public for one week during cherry blossom season.
Japan’s enormous, technologically-advanced capital may seem an unlikely place to revel in nature. But its many Japanese gardens and the surreal sight of seeing blossom float through this fast-paced city make it one of Japan’s cherry blossom hot spots.
A castle town treasured for its well-preserved samurai and geisha districts, Kanazawa is made even more otherworldly with sakura petals dancing in the wind. You’ll also find one of Japan’s Three Great Gardens here, Kenroku-en Garden. With tea houses, groves of twisted ancient trees, ponds with rare species of fish, and flowers precisely-planted for serene effect, this is a clear demonstration of the artistry in Japanese gardens.
Nara is the capital of Japan’s Nara Prefecture, and is a culturally rich city that’s full of greenery. When the cherry blossom blooms, there are numerous parks, palaces, shrines, and even castle ruins that provide a delightful setting for enjoying the spectacle. But the nearby Mt. Yoshino, just south of the city, provides one of the most mind-blowing spring sights in all of Japan. Around 30,000 cherry blossom trees completely cover the hills in the Yoshino area, bathing them in pale pink light and giving off a heavenly, sweet scent.
Every spring, Fukuoka’s Maizuru Park hosts a cherry blossom festival, where a thousand sakura trees are illuminated at night and food stalls and events that bring locals and tourists together. Known as the Fukuoka Castle Sakura Festival, it runs from late March to early April amid the castle ruins.
The historic city of Takayama boasts historic landmarks aplenty, all of which appear ever more spectacular in the springtime. Cherry blossom trees bloom either side of the red, wooden Nakabashi Bridge and fill the picturesque Miyagawa Ryokuchi park.
**The Booking.com data analysts keyword mined for mentions of ‘cherry blossom’ in destination reviews. They looked at cities in Japan only and reviews in the English language. In order to be featured, destinations needed to have at least 50 mentions of cherry blossom in their destination reviews.