Japan's Cherry Blossom Viewing Guide: Tips And Spots To See The Sakura

Japan's Cherry Blossom Viewing Guide: Tips And Spots To See The Sakura

Niigata 2016.12.13

If you visit Japan in spring, make sure you enjoy the wonderful sight of the sakura (cherry blossoms). This article introduces useful information on the sakura viewing season, and 44 recommended sakura viewing spots around the country!

Translated byShinji Takaramura

Born in 1959. Currently working as a freelance translator, after 21 years in various companies.

Written by Jumpei Kawashima

Sakura - The Symbol of Spring in Japanese Culture

The number of visitors to Japan from abroad spikes in spring, especially in April as many people come to view the sakura (cherry blossoms), which bloom freely all over the country.

The cherry tree is a deciduous tree in the rose family, which has spread out in the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere, in places such as East Asia, Europe and the North American continent. Pink and white flowers bloom in spring, and they are mostly planted for decoration purposes.

Sakura have been regarded as a symbol of spring since the Heian era, and this has been woven into the cultural consciousness of Japan. They bloom in April, which is considered to be the beginning of a new year in Japan in regards to business and academics. Sakura are also a symbol of a new start, such as graduation, entering a new school or starting new employment. It is a truly special flower for the Japanese.

In the language of flowers, sakura are said to represent innocence and the spirit of beauty, as they bloom quickly, live for a short time, then quickly fall away. This transience is part of their appeal. Furthermore, the graciousness that this life cycle represents is also seen as being symbolic of the bushido or warrior spirit in Japan.

Currently, there are more than 600 types of sakura in Japan, but the Somei-Yoshino, which spread after the Meiji Period, is the most abundant. It's actually quite fun to travel around Japan and check out the differences between the various types of sakura.

Table of Contents:

1. What is Ohanami?
2. Sakura Viewing Seasons in Major Areas
3. 6 Best Sakura Viewing Spots in the Tokyo Area
4. 5 Best Sakura Viewing Spots in the Kanto Region
5. 4 Best Sakura Viewing Spots in Kyoto
6. 4 Best Sakura Viewing Spots in the Kansai Region
7. 5 Best Sakura Viewing Spots in the Chugoku and Shikoku Regions
8. 5 Best Sakura Viewing Spots in the Kyushu Region
9. 6 Best Sakura Viewing Spots in the Tohoku Region
10. 4 Best Sakura Viewing Spots in Hokkaido
11. 5 Best Sakura Viewing Spots in the Chubu and Hokuriku Regions
12. Bonus! Enjoy the Hanami Season with Sakura Flavored Sweets

Ohanami: An Annual Spring Event

In Japan, there is an event called ohanami or ‘cherry blossom viewing party’ in spring, in which people enjoy the sakura in full bloom. This section is about its history and the manners one should heed at ohanami parties.

History: It Began in the Heian Period

Ohanami are said to have started in the Heian era, when aristocrats would gather together under the sakura and write poems. There is also an account of an ohanami in Tale of the Genji, the oldest novel written in Japan, describing it as a custom among the nobility.

Ohanami became popular among the common people over the years. Now, it is seen as an opportunity to have a picnic while viewing the flowers.

Take a look at Hanami - How To Enjoy Cherry Blossom Viewing for more.

What You Need for Ohanami

The general idea of hanami is to find a place where you can view the sakura, cover the ground with a tarpaulin sheet and sit down to view the flowers. Bring your own food and drinks, along with paper cups and saucers, and enjoy a picnic under the flowers.

Our article 15 Items To Make Your Hanami Great! has more about the things you should prepare for a hanami party, so take a look.

Important Manners

Many people come to view the beautiful sakura, and the proper manners of ohanami have become an issue. The following are some points to watch out for.

Don't Leave Your Trash Behind, Sort It Out

At ohanami parties, people enjoy dining with their friends and families in public parks and the like. The amount of trash will grow with the number of participants, but leaving your trash behind or just throwing it away is out of the question.

Trash boxes are set up at the major viewing spots, so be sure to use them. The trash should be sorted out in categories, such as burnable waste, non-burnable garbage, and recycling items, like plastic, cans, and bottles.

Clean Up The Right Way: Dealing With Trash After A Hanami will tell you more on how to handle the trash.

Do Not Harm the Sakura

At ohanami parties, people can enjoy the sakura at arm's length. Some break off a branch to take back home, or rustle the tree to make the petals fall. Sakura are a delicate plant, and such acts may make them wither or not capable of blooming in the future. When you go to ohanami, don't touch the trees, and just enjoy the view.

Viewing Seasons in Major Areas

Sakura blooms in spring, but their cycles differ in each area. The list below shows the blooming dates of major areas, in an average year. The date changes every year, so if you are planning a visit, be sure to check in advance.

Area Start of Bloom Full Bloom
Sapporo May 3rd May 7th
Aomori April 24th April 29th
Sendai April 11th April 16th
Tokyo March 26th April 3rd
Niigata April 9th April 14th
Kanazawa April 4th April 10th
Nagoya March 26th April 3rd
Shizuoka March 25th April 3rd
Osaka March 28th April 5th
Kyoto March 28th April 5th
Nara March 29th April 5th
Hiroshima March 27th April 4th
Matsuyama March 25th April 4th
Fukuoka March 23rd April 1st
Nagasaki March 24th April 3rd
Kagoshima March 26th April 4th
Okinawa January 18th February 4th

Data: Japan Meteorological Agency (Japanese)
If you are trying to plan your trip to coincide with the cherry blossoms, check out: Want to See Cherry Blossoms This Year? Check This Schedule for more information.

Next PageNext page: the best places to see sakura!
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