It’s that time of the year again – Cherry Blossom season in Japan! Two years ago, I visited Japan during its iconic Cherry Blossom season and it remains one of the most memorable experiences in my lifetime. Although I’ve shared my Japan trip on the blog before, I felt compelled to do an updated post so I can give you more travel info that’s relevant to 2020!
For starters, there’s no set time for when the cherry blossoms will bloom. Some years they arrive early and other years later. Your best bet is to visit the Veltra site. They have very specific and reliable information regarding cherry blossom season in Japan for 2020 (click here). And currently, they’re anticipating trees to start blooming in late March. If you haven’t heard of Veltra, they’re a travel company known for organizing tours and specific activities around the world at crazy low prices. I wish I had known about their services and website before I visited Japan, but now, you can take advantage of them!
What you need to know about Hanami
Before visiting Japan, I think it’s so important to understand the deeper significance of cherry blossoms (or sakura) in Japanese culture. It’s not only the country’s national flower, but is a metaphor for life, death, and renewal. It touches on the concept of impermanence and reminds us to appreciate the brief time we share together with loved ones. Cherry blossom season is euphoric and powerful but also short-lived – kind of like life itself. With that said, do not pluck the blossoms off the tree, sit on the roots of the tree, or shake them.
If you’ve ever dreamt about visiting Japan in the spring time, be sure to bookmark and use my guide below for the absolute best cherry blossom spots in Japan!
Known to be one of the most iconic tourist spots in Japan is Kyoto, which I’ve come to see why. The traditional architecture is so charming and unlike the bustling nature of Tokyo. You come here for its history and culture where you can experience the ancient temples and shrines which take you back in time.
My first recommendation for cherry blossom viewing in Kyoto is to walk the path to Yasaka-No-To Pagoda, a tall wooden pagoda that’s surrounded by many historical old homes. What’s unique about this spot is that the streets are directed towards the pagoda so there plenty of photo opps from from below and above. The blossoming trees are stunning against the structure in the distance.
Next, the Philosopher’s Path (image left) in Kyoto follows a canal that’s lined with hundreds of cherry blossom trees. After blooming, the passage is bursting with color from the pink flowers and the red bridge. Those two elements sitting along the stone pathway is insanely beautiful!
Gion is no doubt a tourist trap, but I promise that you’ll 100% enjoy the stroll along the Shirakawa River. With the trees blooming against the wooden houses, you’ll be in complete awe (see two images below). And if you look hard enough, you’ll even spot the area where the Memoirs of a Geisha was filmed (anyone else remember that movie?) – and possibly a geisha or two. The upside to this busy area is that there’s no shortage of food! The dessert shops are unparalleled in taste and appearance.
Now moving onto Osaka, which is probably about an hour ride away from Kyoto, we have the Osaka Castle. My time here was very limited so I didn’t get to do much exploring, but I have to say, this castle is a destination not to be missed! There are about 4,000 cherry trees planted around it, which looks to be exploding when they’re in bloom! The photo above looks like a painting, but it’s real! At night, the castle lights up, making the moment even more magical.
For a less historical but equally beautiful location, be sure to check out the Chureito Pagoda in Fujiyoshida, which sits across from the snowy caps of Mount Fuji. The 5-story structure is surrounded by the natural beauty of Japan – and is even more stunning when the cherry blossoms blooming and out. I felt like it was floating amid the trees! Note that this is another spot that gets packed with crowds fast, so plan to get there early to take advantage of good photo spots.
And finally, my recommended spots for cherry blossoms in Japan wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Tokyo! Although Tokyo is burgeoning with denizens and travelers during this season, there’s great reason why. The picturesque lakes, festivals, beautiful line up of trees, and tranquil rivers are a pure sight to see.
To start, you should really plan to check out Chidorigafuchi Park for the surreal boat rides.
I caution you to expect long lines and a pricey ticket, but it will be the BEST cherry blossom viewing you’ll never have! And if you get to catch the strong winds that force petals off the trees, the moment becomes even more spectacular! Overall, it was really beautiful beyond words and felt like a magical fairytale that was worth every bit of the wait and costly ride – probably one of my favorite highlights among this trip.
Yoyogi Park is not just one of the largest national parks in Tokyo, but it’s filled with trees, making it so easy to enjoy cherry blossoms even among a busy crowd. I recommend going early in the morning to reserve a spot that you can enjoy a picnic at. The good news is the denizens of Tokyo tend to get up and out late so if you’re there before 10 am, you’re all set!
Ueno Park is a top destination for hanami, and is so worthwhile. With over 900 cherry trees line along the central path, it’s perfect for enjoying food and drinks during the day. Lanterns are also strung up, so the blossoms come to life at night.
The Meguro River cruise is an experience that will really blow your mind. You not only get a stunning view of the cherry blossoms on a boat ride, but the petals dancing through the wind and covering the river will have you awestruck. It’s seriously one of the best cherry blossom spots in Japan!
Have you been to Japan – would love to know your best cherry blossom spots! Don’t forget to visit Veltra to book the best cherry blossom tours!japan travel guidetravel guide