Once the cherry blossoms (sakura) arrive 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, cherry blossom season is a magnificent sight and one of the best times to visit.
Though it’s tricky to predict when exactly cherry blossoms will reach full bloom (mankai), you’ll still enjoy warm but mild weather and lots of cultural events during spring. We’ve included the estimated dates of the first and full blooms for optimal cherry blossom viewing.
Here are the most popular destinations for catching the sakura spectacle.
See cherry blossoms among Kyoto's temples, sweeping gardens, and resplendent imperial palaces
The cherry blossoms of Kyoto—a city of temples, tranquil gardens, and resplendent imperial palaces—tend to bloom from the last week of March through the middle of April. Visit the huge 80-year-old sakura tree weeping over the pond in Maruyama Park, a popular spot for hanami – the Japanese tradition of welcoming spring with food, drinks, and music. Or stroll along The Philosopher’s Walk, a canal lined with cherry blossoms that cast dappled sunshine through their light pink canopy. Stay at Gion Oyado Kikutani, a charming ryokan just a couple minutes’ walk from Maruyama Park.
Cherry blossoms in full bloom along the Meguro River in Tokyo
Japan’s enormous, technologically advanced capital may seem like an unlikely place to enjoy nature. However, its many Japanese gardens and the surreal sight of petals floating through this fast-paced city make it one of Japan’s sakura hot spots. Check in to the Westin Tokyo to stay within walking distance of one of Tokyo’s top cherry blossom-viewing spots, the Meguro River.
Explore cherry blossom spots, tea houses, and groves of twisting ancient trees in Kanazawa
A castle town renown 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, the Kenroku-en Garden. With tea houses, groves of twisting ancient trees, ponds with rare species of fish, and precisely planted flowers, this is a clear demonstration of the artistry in Japanese gardens. Stay at Kaname Inn Tatemachi, an apartment just a couple minutes’ walk from Kenroku-en Garden, with stylish, modern Japanese decor.
Visit the scenic city of Nara in sakura season to see it bathed in pale pink light
The capital of Japan’s Nara Prefecture, Nara, is a culturally rich city full of greenery. When the cherry blossoms bloom, there are numerous parks, palaces, shrines, and even castle ruins that provide the perfect setting for enjoying the sakura. The nearby Mt. Yoshino, just south of the city, offers one of the most mind-blowing spring sights in all of Japan. Here, around 30,000 cherry blossom trees completely cover the landscape, bathing it in pale pink light and giving off a heavenly scent. Stay in the Houtouji Temple, an elegant B&B in the Yoshino area.
A spring day in Fukuoka featuring beautiful cherry blossoms
Every spring, the ruins of Fukuoka Castle and the surrounding Maizuru Park become a magical place to see sakura. The cherry blossom trees here are lit up in a variety of different colors at night. Visitors can soak up the atmosphere while wandering the ruined walls, turrets, and gates. The festivities tend to run from late March to early April. Stay a couple of streets from Maizuru Park at the highly rated Yagura Hostel.
Hirosaki Castle in Aomori is best visited in the spring when surrounded with pink petals
At the northern tip of Japan’s main island, Honshu, the prefecture of Aomori lays claim to some of the country’s best cherry blossoms. It’s a region of mystic lakes and mountains thick with virgin forest of Hiba cypress, Japanese firs, and gingko trees. But it’s the city of Hirosaki—in the grounds of its eponymous, 17th-century castle—that hosts some of the most popular hanami celebrations. The Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival (April 21 to May 5, 2023) features over 2,500 trees, row boats for rent, cherry blossom tunnels to stroll through, and sakura illuminated by night. The best view of the lit-up trees is by Shunyo Bridge on the west side of the park. Stay at Kobori Ryokan, just a 10-minute walk from the castle.
Sapporo’s Maruyama Park is a popular hanami party hotspot
Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido, a sparsely populated island north of Honshu that’s renowned for its wild and spectacular scenery. When its cherry blossoms come into bloom, this natural beauty is at its peak. There are lots of places outside the city to witness the spectacle, but Sapporo’s Maruyama Park and the adjacent Hokkaido Shrine form one of the most popular hanami party hotspots. Here 1,400 cherry blossoms and 250 plum blossoms (ume) bloom simultaneously, with a beautiful avenue of trees leading up to the shrine and plenty of space in the park to have a picnic beneath the flowers. Pick up a souvenir bottle of Jingū no ume, a Japanese plum wine, from the shrine. Or wash down your picnic treats with a cup of Jingu no sakura, an herbal tea made with pickled cherry blossoms, seaweed, and black beans. Stay at the stylish Ten to Ten, 40 minutes on the subway from the shrine.
Expect abundant cherry blossom scenes in Fukushima during spring
Just over an hour by bullet train from Tokyo, the city of Fukushima sits in the Abukuma Valley, surrounded by the Tohoku region’s astounding natural beauty. Expect hot springs, forest-cloaked mountains, volcanic landscapes, and abundant cherry blossom scenes in the spring. The best sakura spot here is the hillside Hanamiyama Park, home to plum blossoms, Tokaizakura cherry blossoms, rosebud cherry blossoms, Yoshino cherry blossoms, and many more. It’s located just a 30-minute walk from the city center. You could also take one of the shuttle buses that run regularly from Fukushima Station in the season, and save your energy for the hiking trails that cross this floral paradise. Stay in a room with traditional tatami mats at Fukushima’s welcoming Guesthouse Oyado Iizaka.
Bonus blossom destinations:
In addition to cherry blossoms, foodies must visit Osaka to try the city's signature dish, okonomiyaki
A city celebrated for its thriving party scene, restaurants, and street food, Osaka is a fantastic place to be when the cherry blossoms arrive. Riverside walkways and gardens are great spots for enjoying the view, with thousands of cherry blossoms planted by the water. The Osaka Mint Bureau (the Japan Mint headquarters) opens its grounds on the banks of the Yodo River to the public for one week during cherry blossom season. For a personalized experience, book a guided tour and round it off with a picnic of local specialties like okonomiyaki, a delicious savory pancake. Just an 8-minute walk upriver from the Mint Bureau, stay at the Imperial Hotel Osaka.
Spectacular sakura views at Matsu Park
Northeast of Tokyo in Japan’s Tohoku Region, you’ll find the city of Sendai and some amazing sakura. Within the city, there are the wide, hanami-friendly lawns of Mikamine Park, the cherry blossom festival, and illuminated trees of Nishi Park at night. Tsutsujigaoka Park also has a variety of Somei Yoshino and weeping cherry trees planted along its paved lanes. To explore even further, make the half-hour drive from Sendai to Saigyo Modoshi no Matsu Park, where you can gaze at cherry blossom trees cloaking the mountainside and sweeping views of Matsushima Bay. There’s also the Shiogama Shrine or Shiroishi Riverside, both about 30 minutes by train from Sendai and offering breathtaking sakura scenes. Check in to the highly rated Sendai Royal Park Hotel.
Cherry blossom trees blooming on either side of Takayama's red, wooden Nakabashi Bridge
The historic city of Takayama boasts tons of historic landmarks, all of which look even more amazing in the springtime. Cherry blossom trees bloom on either side of the red, wooden Nakabashi Bridge and fill the picturesque Miyagawa Ryokuchi park. Just a short walk from the park is the stylish Hotel Wood Takayama.