The cherry blossom festival is an annual festival where people from all over the world come to Japan to watch the cherry trees flower.
Many consider the festival a great beauty, especially when viewed from gorgeous destinations, like the base of Mount Fuji or one of the country’s many castles.
Throughout most of the mainland, the cherry blossom trees often come to life with their light pink blossoms in early April, but they sometimes bloom later.
Yet, no matter when or where you visit Japan to see the flowers and delight in the parties at the beginning of spring, you can expect to find beautiful scenery and an astounding culture.
What is the Annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan?
Japan’s cherry blossom festivals, often called hanami, are an ancient tradition that goes back to the 8th century and welcomes the beginning of spring.
Near the end of March every year, the temperature rises in Japan, and plants begin to spring back to life, including the beloved cherry blossom trees, which produce delicate light pink petals.
Farmers used the original cherry blossom festival to gauge when to plant rice plants, but today people just see the cherry blossoms (and plum blossoms) as a symbol of spring and a return to warm weather.
During the week or two that the cherry blossoms stay in bloom, people hold outdoor hanami parties to celebrate the beginning of the new season. Thus, cherry blossom festival hotspots tend to have street festivals where people can get together, have fun, and eat from bento boxes.
When is Cherry Blossom Season?
The festival dates change depending on weather conditions and the region of the country.
For instance, in most of the mainland, the major bloom comes in early April. However, on southern islands, like Okinawa, the cherry blossom dates can begin as early as late January. Conversely, cherry blossoms reach full bloom in northern Japan at the beginning of May, and the flowers can last on the trees until mid-May.
Also, the weather conditions in winter can affect when the cherry trees bloom. Thus, if the winter is mild, the trees will bloom earlier than usual.
Climate change is also changing the date that cherry trees blossom. Typically, each year the festival begins earlier than the last.
If you want to find out when to see the blossoms in a particular year, you should check out the cherry blossom forecast, which institutions like the Japan Weather Association put out at the beginning of every year.
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Where are the Best Cherry Blossom Viewing Spots?
You can see cherry blossoms throughout the country, but there are a few areas where people tend to congregate for the festivals.
As one of Japan’s most recognizable landmarks, of course, Mount Fuji is a favorite spot for tourists and locals alike to enjoy the Hanami season.
Some of the best cherry blossom viewing areas are in the Fuji Five Lakes region, where you can see the delicate flowers of the sakura trees and Japan’s snow-capped volcano while simultaneously experiencing Japanese culture.
The Sakura Festival around Mount Fuji usually peaks in mid or late April. Some of the best flower viewing spots in the area include Chureito Pagoda, the north shore of Lake Kawaguchiko, and Oshino Hakkai.
Another favorite area during the cherry blossom season is Kyoto, which is both a beautiful city and a popular destination for tourists.
The greatest places to see the trees in Kyoto are Maruyama Park (the oldest park in Kyoto), Philosopher’s Path, and Arashiyama district.
Although Osaka Castle can get quite crowded during the hanami celebrations, the area is one of the best to see the cherry blossoms.
Osaka Castle and Nishinomaru Garden, the park surrounding the castle, are great places to celebrate hanami. The castle grounds and scenic garden create a stunning combination that the pink-flowered trees only improve.
Flowers at Osaka begin blooming around mid-March and are at peak bloom by the end of the month.
Another must-see castle for those visiting Japan, the Nagoya Castle is a majestic structure built in the 17th century, with surrounding grounds that contain hundreds of cherry trees.
The most popular area around Nagoya Castle to view the blossoms is Tsuruma Park, which sells street food so visitors can try out different Japanese foods while they enjoy the festival. You may even get to look through local crafts when you visit the area.
Castles tend to be popular places to see cherry blossoms, and Himeji Castle may be the most gorgeous of them all. The millennia-old castle’s grounds and gardens contain more than 1,000 cherry trees, and the scene of the sweet pink petals against the building’s white walls is both calming and beautiful.
As Tokyo’s most famous park, Ueno is one of the most popular areas to see blooming cherry trees. Visitors who choose Ueno tend to pick the area because of its proximity to other popular sites in Japan’s largest city center.
If you view the blooms in Tokyo but want to go to a less crowded area, you can try the nearby Nakameguro district. Nakameguro is a scenic area that is perfect for couples, especially at night when the canal is full of glowing paper lanterns. You can also eat at food stalls and try out fun foods like sakura mochi while you take in the sakura blooms.
In Tokyo, the trees tend to peak in mid-April.
Chidorigafuchi Green Way
Northwest of the Imperial Palace is Chidorigafuchi Green Way and Moat. The park is many people’s favorite place to see the blossoms because you can launch a boat from the pier and look up as you pass through the 700-meter-long cherry tree tunnel.
Also, the area is lit up at night so that you can see the reflection of the pink clouds made by the sakura petals on the water.
Most Popular Types of Cherry Blossom Trees
Many people don’t realize that there are different types of cherry blossoms in Japan, but the country is actually home to dozens of varieties. Specifically, many new types of different trees came to the island after World War II.
The Somei Yoshino cherry blossoms are some of the most commonly found cherry trees in the country. This plant has five-petal flowers, and the petals are such a light pink that they almost look white.
The Shidarezakura, called the Weeping Cherry Blossom in English, is a cherry tree with branches that hang towards the ground. Otherwise, weeping cherry trees don’t look much different from more traditional sakura.
These trees also tend to bloom about a week before other cherry varieties, so you can most likely see them in their full beauty by late March.
The Yamazakura is the most famous of the cherry blossoms’ wild varieties, and people often find them in Japan’s mountains. These blossoms look a lot like the Somei Yoshino, except they have a slightly more pink color and are much darker in the center.
Table of Contents
- What is the Annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan?
- When is Cherry Blossom Season?
- Where are the Best Cherry Blossom Viewing Spots?
- Most Popular Types of Cherry Blossom Trees