Cherry blossom season in Japan is a magical time to visit, and luckily for travelers, it’s possible to spend months chasing the cherry blossoms across the country. That’s right, the influx of tourists arriving in Tokyo and Kyoto in April and May needn’t be a problem for travelers wanting a more authentic Japan experience. Here are 10 tips on how to track the sakura season across the country for months to see.
10 Start in the south
Travelers looking to make the most of cherry blossom season in Japan can start in the southern island of Kyushu and travel north from there. Cherry blossoms in Kyushu begin blooming as early as late March, so early spring travelers can get a taste of sakura season without the tourist crowds that arrive in Kyoto in April.
9 Buy a Japan Rail Pass
For international visitors, Japan offers the option of purchasing a Japan Rail Pass to travel around the country. The JR Pass is a great deal that helps travelers save on bullet train costs by paying a set fee for a pass valid for 7, 14 or 21 days.
The pass must be applied for and purchased in a traveler’s home country prior to departure. They then collect and activate their pass upon arrival at a JR station.
8th Plan your arrival date accordingly
Travelers should choose their arrival date carefully based on where in the country they plan to begin their sightseeing journey. Visitors hoping to only see cherry blossoms in Kyoto, Tokyo and Osaka won’t want to arrive until April to see the flowers in full bloom. However, visitors flying to Fukuoka and spending time in Kyushu may miss the cherry blossoms entirely if they arrive late in the season. For those traveling north to Hokkaido, planning arrival dates in May still means seeing the flowers at their best.
7 Allow yourself at least 2 weeks (but preferably more)
Exploring Japan during cherry blossom season and following the blossoms across the country is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. To avoid feeling rushed, travelers hoping to see cherry blossoms in more than one part of the country should plan a trip of at least two weeks, ideally longer. From Fukuoka, it’s easy to spend at least 5-7 days exploring Kyushu before venturing north to the main island of Honshu.
Once there, travelers can easily spend 10-14 days touring the Kansai region of Japan and Tokyo. To visit other parts of the country, like Nagano in the Japanese Alps, historic Takayama or Hokkaido in the north, travelers need at least another week.
6 Book your accommodation in good time
Cherry blossom season is the peak travel season for visitors to Japan, meaning tourism is booming and accommodation is a sought-after commodity. Not surprisingly, many hotels book up to 12-18 months in advance. This is especially true for popular travel destinations like Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo. To avoid being stranded at the last minute without a place to stay or paying outrageous prices, travelers should book their accommodation as early as possible.
5 Avoid crowds by heading far north or south
Travelers who don’t want to deal with the huge crowds that the cherry blossoms draw in Japan in April and May should steer off the beaten track. Rather than focusing the trip on Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo, hunt for cherry blossoms in southern Kyushu in March or in Hokkaido in May.
4 Check the cherry blossom forecast before your visit
Japan has an official cherry blossom forecast every year, giving travelers useful information on how best to see the flowers in full bloom. The forecast includes details like the dates when the flowers open in each major city and when they will be in full bloom to help visitors plan their trip accordingly. Be sure to check before you leave!
3 The biggest cherry blossom festival takes place in Tokyo
The best way to experience the full effect of Japan’s cherry blossom season is to attend one of the country’s many cherry blossom festivals. The Ueno Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the largest in the country and is held in Tokyo. Guests take part in the festival hanamiwhat flower viewing means. hanami offers an opportunity to reflect on the value of nature.
The festival takes place in Tokyo’s Ueno Park and admission is free. The festival in 2023 starts on March 17th and lasts until the beginning of April.
2 If you’re visiting in winter, head to Okinawa to enjoy cherry blossoms
As early as January, travelers can see cherry blossoms on the island of Okinawa. This means that even visiting Japan in winter offers an opportunity to experience the sakura season. Okinawa is an island off the coast of mainland Japan and is sometimes referred to as the “Hawaii of Japan” for its lush greenery and subtropical climate.
1 Pack a jacket
Unless travelers head to Okinawa, Japan’s cherry blossom season still requires a jacket for comfort. Although pictures of sunshine and pink flowers online make it look warm, temperatures in Kyoto only reach an average daytime high of 14°C in March, and in April, while the high is as high as 20°C, the average daily low is around 8ºC