For many people, cherry blossom season (sakura season) is the main reason for visiting Japan.
The Importance of Sakura Season
The delicate flowers of the cherry tree appear around the beginning of spring providing subtle colours after the winter and marking some important changes in the lives of many Japanese, as it also marks the time they start new schools, or careers.
One aspect that makes the cherry blossom season special is that it is often short, therefore, having a good forecast of when the best blossom will appear is a matter of interest for local Japanese people and visitors alike.
The official declaration of flowering (kaika sengen) is linked to a particular set of cherry trees in Tokyo of one particular type (the trees are a closely guarded secret). However, this forecast does not take into account that there are more than two hundred different varieties of cherry trees in Japan, and the blossom of other trees (plum and apricot) are often as beautiful. Suffice to say, there is lots of variety.
The Blossom Forecast
The other major factor in cherry blossom viewing is that the country stretches across hundreds of kilometers south to north, and also has significant differences between coastal and mountainous regions. This means even the official forecasts span not just weeks, but several months. And that does not even count the special early blossom varieties, or the more unusual types that blossom during winter.
When to Visit for Cherry Blossom Viewing
You can tour around Japan criss-crossing the country and the blossom front travels up the country. Typically you could spend six weeks from mid-March to the end of April enjoying cherry blossom. For the early stages of flowering you can also see plums (which starts much earlier), and also witness the beauty of double flowers, some of the large blossom varieties, and also head to many non-tourist locations where people can really enjoy the hanami experience.
The official Japan Cherry Blossom Association has a list of its 100 top sites. While a cascade of many trees and full bloom is impressive, some of their featured locations only have a single tree. Still, with a top 100 and thousands of parks and even more thousands of cherry trees, seeing cherry blossom Japan is certainly not a one week affair.
Travel tip shared by Japan Custom Tours