Everything You Need To Know To See Japan’s Cherry Blossoms

My family’s recent trip to the Carlsbad Flower fields got my daughter, Lily, non-stop talking about our upcoming flower-centered trip to Japan!

After an 11 hour flight, the whole family landed in Tokyo this last week, and I have to admit that (as a frequent Japan traveler, but someone who was never able to time the blooms quite right) this year was the most beautiful I’ve ever seen them

In Buddhism, cherry blossoms have a long history of symbolism, one of those being a symbol of mortality and brevity. This ties in with what I’ve always been told: that the first rain after the initial bloom would wash away the petals, I found that not to be true this year. The blossoms were spectacular, well worth the stress of taking two young children on an 11-hour flight. 

I have to say, considering this trip was scheduled around my kid’s spring break, our family was lucky. 2024 has been unusual in that the cherry blossoms around Tokyo did not bloom until early April due to a colder than average winter, when normally they began to blossom in late March. With the earthquakes and tsunami warnings (my prayers go out to everyone in Taiwan), rain has been in the forecast at least a little every day. But despite that, the cherry blossoms were still strong and beautiful!

When to See Cherry Blossoms

From the first bloom in late March to when the green leaves start growing in in mid April, cherry blossoms are beautiful during their entire lifecycle.

Don’t worry too much if you miss the first bloom they’ll still be there and beautiful for a couple weeks after, but I know when we are planning our trips it’s hard to not want to miss the iconic first bloom of cherry blossoms!

In order to plan accordingly, pay attention to this online forecast as Japan’s cherry blossoms bloom at a different time in its various regions

Keep in mind, its only a forecast! My friends recently planned their trip precisely around the forecast and unfortunately, they ended up leaving before the cherry blossoms even bloomed this year!

Where to See Cherry Blossoms

I am including a link here to a guide to some of the best cherry tree viewing in the country, but honestly, cherry blossoms are everywhere in Japan

Pro Tip:

If a truly beautiful tree is just too jam packed with tourists to snap a pic, walk a little further and I promise you’ll be able to find another!

My favorite location to see the blossoms were in an onsen village called Kinosaki. It was a beautiful quaint little town and was less crowded than everywhere else in Japan.

The cherry trees were blooming all along the water down by a canal and they were some of the most vibrantly colored blossoms I saw during the entire trip!

Hanami & What to Do

If you are thinking about indulging yourself in a cherry blossom tour, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • The viewing of cherry blossoms is called 花見 (hanami) in Japanese written with the Kanji of flower and the verb “to see”. Hanami is an important part of Japanese culture that there are many fun activities surrounding them. There may even be Hanami festivals going on during your trip! Try participating in walks and picnics along the rivers to take in the beauty of the cherry blossoms. At night, some parks and bridges may light up for blossom viewing after dark. 
  • I had to drag my kids out of bed for an early morning walk on the first day after we got there, but it was well worth it: the parks are less crowded, more peaceful, and it is easier to get off some really good shots with the camera!
  • Think food, not just flowers!!! Sakura festivals are held all over Japan this time of year, and this is a great time to enjoy an incredible variety of sakura flavored treats. My personal favorite was the hand-crafted sakura wagashi (Japanese traditional sweets), but my son and daughter both liked the sakura ice cream and parfaits!
  • Depending on where you go, the cherry blossom season in Japan is quite long, beginning in mid-January in southern areas like Okinawa and going as late as mid-May in northern areas like Hakkaido.  However, keep in mind that the window to see the flowers in a given area is still fairly short: cherry blossoms will peak about a week or two after they first open and yes, sometimes can be knocked down early by high winds or heavy rains. 
  • As I mentioned earlier, the blossom times can be a little unpredictable like they were in Tokyo this year.  Fortunately, there is an online forecast which you can check to see where the peak blooms are at any given time. 

Being able to walk quietly with your family along the cherry blossoms if you’re able to get the chance is something to remember and appreciate as Japan’s tourism numbers rise every year.

One year, certain parts of Japan may be completely banned from tourism if the current problems of tourists continue where many will harass locals, graffiti, litter, and steal!

Remember to take the time to appreciate the culture of Japan, and try to learn a little of the language before traveling! Doing a little to make sure we’re respecting the homes and culture of the people we’re visiting is essential to teach our little ones.

Good luck and happy hanami!


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