A Complete Guide To Japan's Cherry Blossoms With A Map

cherry blossom tokyo zorymory humminglion

To all the sakura lovers out here wondering how to get the best out of the famed Cherry Blossoms in Japan - we’ve got you covered!

Table of Contents
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when to go

Timing the cherry blossoms perfectly is a bit of a combination of research, perseverance, and luck since the weather can shift the blossoms anywhere from a couple days early to a couple weeks late!

So how do you plan a trip to Japan way in advance in hopes of catching the Cherry Blossoms in bloom? Our advice is to aim to catch it on the later side since catching it too early means you’ll just see a lot of barren trees. If you manage to catch it right at peak that’s a bonus - but catching it late at least means the floor will be covered in the blossoms and you’ll see them flying all over the place.

The general consensus is that the cherry blossoms start blooming around mid to late March and peak from late March to early April. The cherry blossoms are still pretty after the peak, since they start to fall on the ground and the air is filled with them.

Here are several forecasting websites we used to help us pick our dates.

https://www.jrailpass.com/blog/japan-cherry-blossom-forecast

https://n-kishou.com/corp/news-contents/sakura/news2018.html?lang=en (this is the 2018 forecast)

But the reality of the situation is that no one really knows when the blossoms are going to bloom until they start. For example in 2017, the forecasts were all predicting a late March peak bloom, but the cold weather pushed the peak bloom all the way to mid April. I knew some friends who came for a week to Japan in mid March and didn’t even see one cherry blossom! But most years, the cherry blossoms generally follow the forecasts, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

plan your visit

Get a Japan Rail Pass

The Japan Rail Pass allows you to use the JR Shinkansen Bullet trains between the cities non stop for the duration of the pass. Why use the bullet trains? Well, they’re super fast, convenient, and comfortable - way better than all other forms of transportation since you get on and off the train in the center of each city.

So how much money can you save? Here is the price chart for the Japan Rail Pass below:

Type:
Green
Standard
Duration
Adult
Child
Adult
Child
7-day
38,880 YEN
19,440 YEN
29,110 YEN
14,550 YEN
14-day
62,950 YEN
31,470 YEN
46,390 YEN
23,190 YEN
21-day
81,870 YEN
40,930 YEN
59,350 YEN
29,670 YEN

If you were to pay for a round trip Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto it would cost you 26,160 yen. Also, a round trip on the Narita Express from the airport to Tokyo is around 6,000 yen. Just doing those two trips (around 32,000 yen) - buying a Japan Rail Pass (29,110 yen) would have saved you money. If you add in Osaka to the route, you’re definitely saving money.

What are the differences between Green and Standard tickets?

The Green tickets are essentially for the “VIP” section of the train - which is quieter and gives you more leg room. But since Japan is normally a very reserved culture, the standard section is pretty darn quiet as well. One caveat for the green tickets are that all green seats are reserved in advance, giving you less flexibility to just hop on a train vs the standard tickets.

Book your rooms early

I’d recommend booking your hotel/airbnb at least 3-4 months before your trip since hotels start filling up very quickly. For example, in Kyoto a month out from our trip, it was showing that 94% of the city was completely booked!

It’s cold

No one told us that it was going to be so cold, wet, and windy during the Cherry Blossom season! Make sure to pack a waterproof jacket, waterproof shoes, a puffy jacket, an umbrella, and some gloves! When we were there from mid March to mid April the temperatures ranged from 45F to 70F with strong wind gusts. It wasn’t until the last few days in mid April that it started to get a bit warmer during the day.


Where to see the cherry blossoms

TOKYO

Chidorigafuchi Moat

The moat surrounding the Imperial Palace is covered in gigantic cherry blossom trees - with many reaching over on top of the edges of the moat. One of the most unforgettable things you can do is rent a paddle boat and get super close to all the petals! Get there early before they open or you’ll have to face ultra long lines.

cherry blossom tokyo
chidorigafuchi cherry blossom zorymory humminglion

Shinjuku Goen

shinjuku cherry blossom zorymory humminglion

This 144 acre park has over 1,500 cherry trees with over dozen varieties of Sakura. Since there is an entrance fee it is less crowded than public parks that are often covered in blue tarps and loud, inebriated locals. More on that later!

cherry blossom tokyo
cherry blossom tokyo


Yoyogi Park

If you’re looking for a sakura party - here is where you’ll find it. Locals love to get here early to lay out gigantic blue plastic tarps to save spots for the upcoming party in the park. As the day wears on, you’ll see large groups of Japanese drinking, eating, and having a merry time! It’s definitely a sight to behold, but don’t try to get your Insta-worthy shot here because the blue tarps sorta ruin it.

yoyogi park zorymory humminglion cherry blossom

Sumida Park

cherry blossom sumida park

A bit of a subdued park and less popular with the Sakura crowd - there are still around 1000 cherry trees here. If you get here early in the morning, you’ll almost have the whole place to yourself.

sumida park cherry blossom

Meguro River

For an unforgettable memory - the Meguro River is lined with over 800 sakura trees. Both day and night are beautiful. During the day the sun shines through the blossoms and at night they are illuminated with lights and surrounded by hanami parties.

Meguro River




kyoto

Takase River

Right along the Takase River on Kiyamachi street - there are wonderful cherry blossoms trees with picturesque viewpoints at the crossing points on the street. At night, they are illuminated, making for a wonderful experience too.

kyoto cherry blossom zorymory humminglion


Philosopher’s Path

Lined with numerous cherry blossom trees, this stone path is a popular spot in spring when the sakura are in full bloom. The Philosopher's walk, also known as the Philosopher's Path, is about 2 kilometers long and provides beautiful photo backgrounds for every season, but especially during the sakura bloom.

 photo by  Studio Zero

photo by Studio Zero


Ninnaji Temple

If you’re in Kyoto in mid April, then Ninnaji Temple is a great place to visit since it has many Omuro cherry trees which tend to bloom later than the others. There are hundreds of them on the temple grounds, making for a beautiful experience. Ninnaji temple is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the head temple of the Omuro Shingo Buddhism sect.

ninnaji

Some other cherry blossom highlights include Maruyama Park, Kyoto Gyoen National Garden, and Kiyomizudera.

OSAKA

Osaka Castle

There are over 4000 cherry trees sprinkled about on the Osaka castle grounds. Some of the best shots are from across the moat though.

osaka castle
osaka cherry blossom
osaka cherry blossom


Yodogawa Riverside Park

A short train ride from the city center of Osaka - this beautiful park boasts a riverside bank lined with hundreds of cherry trees, most of them being the popular Somei Yoshino type.

yodogawa


Kema Sakuranomiya Park

With over 5000 cherry trees lining the Okawa River - you’ll be in sakura heaven here with the seemingly endless rows of cherry trees.

Kema Sakuranomiya.jpg

Expo 70 Park

This former 1970 World Exhibition site was turned into a public park with over 5000 cherry trees. You can easily get there from Umeda and Namba via the Osaka Monorail getting off at Banpaku-kinen-koen Station.

HIMEJI

An additional location with a jaw dropping combination of beautiful architecture and cherry blossoms is the UNESCO Himeji Castle. It’s also called the Hakuro-jo or Shirasagi-jo (“White Egret Castle” or “White Heron Castle”) for its white exterior and appearance of a bird taking flight. You can reach the Himeji Castle with the Shinkansen train from Osaka (40 mins) or Kyoto (55 mins) using your Japan Rail Pass.

Himeji castle.jpg
 

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