Cherry trees will bloom a bit earlier than usual in most parts of Japan this year because of a warmer than usual winter. Check out anticipated best viewing dates and book rooms at recommended hotels as the Cherry Blossom Front moves north. UPDATED FOR 2019!
Please consult the chart below for the latest predictions by the Japan Weather Association.
The best times to view cherry blossoms in Japan start five to six days after they open. Their optimal viewing time is relatively short, lasting about one week, give or take a day or two.
Cherry blossoms – called “sakura” in Japanese – are fragile, and they can be washed away by heavy rains or blown away by strong winds.
But their brevity and fragility add to their allure. Viewing cherry blossoms is called “hanami” in Japanese, and it is a time-honoured pastime in the Land of the Rising Sun.
How to Enjoy Cherry Blossoms
Hanami is Japanese for viewing flowers. But it specifically refers to the viewing of cherry blossoms in popular usage.
Cherry blossoms can be viewed up close – by examining a single blossom. You can also look at an individual tree or a small group of trees. Or you can view them from a distance. En mass, cherry blossoms can appear like pink or white clouds.
Some of the best spots to enjoy cherry blossoms in Japan are at the grounds of castles, shrines, or temples – or along the banks of rivers. They are often lit up a night, making a breathtaking spectacle. Picnics among the cherry trees are very popular in Japan.
Typically at least one person has to arrive early in the morning to reserve a good spot, with everyone one else showing up after they get off work.
The Cherry Blossom Front
Cherry blossoms are already blooming in Okinawa, the southern-most major island in the Japanese archipelago, where they started to open in mid-January and will continue to bloom through mid-February.
The Cherry Blossom Front, however, has not yet reached the main island of Kiyushu.
Cherry blossoms are expected to open in Fukuoka on March 19 followed by Tokyo on March 23.
Their peak viewing dates are expected to begin on March 19 in Fukuoka and March 23 in Tokyo.
The Cherry Blossom Front will work its way northward over the following weeks.
Best Times to View Cherry Blossoms in 2019 (and Where to Stay)
The weather in Japan can vary from year to year and place to place. These are the estimated best times to view cherry blossoms in 2019 according to the Japan Weather Association.
Changes in the weather, however, can affect the times that cherry trees blossom – and heavy rains or winds can also cut viewing times short.
These predictions were published on 7 February 2019. I will update the list periodically as the season progresses.
Cities are listed from South to North. Hotels are listed in alphabetical order (“the” doesn’t count).
Kagoshima – opening: March 28; best viewing from April 7.
Nagasaki – opening: March 20; best viewing from March 29.
Fukuoka – opening: March 19; best viewing from March 29.
Matsuyama – opening: March 21; best viewing from March 31.
Hiroshima – opening: March 22; best viewing from March 31.
Tokyo – opening: March 23; best viewing from March 30.
With more than 1,000 cherry trees, Ueno Park is one of the most popular spots to view cherry blossoms in the Japanese capital.
Trees are lit up after dark. Shinjuku Green features more than 1,000 trees of more than 12 species. The moats of the former Edo Castle in Kitanomaru Park are lined with cherry trees.
It also is possible to view cherry blossoms from boats by the Sumida River, whose shores are lined with trees.
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Nagoya – opening: March 22; best viewing from April 1.
There are numerous varieties of cherry trees in the park and along the moats surrounding Nagoya Castle (admission: 500 yen).
The banks of the Yamazakigawa River are also a favoured spot for viewing cherry blossoms in Japan’s fourth largest city.
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Yokohama – opening: March 26; best viewing from April 3.
With more than 1,000 cherry trees surrounding three ponds, Mitsuike Park is the best spot to view cherry blossoms in Japan’s second most populous city.
Sankeien Garden – with its collection of historic buildings transplanted from around the country – runs a close second (admission: 500 yen).
Kyoto – opening: March 24; best viewing from April 2.
Maruyama Park is the most popular spot to view cherry blossoms in the former Japanese capital. The Philosopher’s Trail, which connects the Silver Paviliion with Nanzneji, is also lined with cherry trees.
Located on the outskirts of Kyoto, Arashiyama Mountain has many cherry trees located as its base. A world heritage site, Daigoji Temple – located in southeastern Kyoto – holds a cherry blossom festival each year.
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Osaka – opening: March 26; best viewing from April 2.
The grounds of Osaka Castle are planted with more than 4,000 cherry trees.
There are spacious grounds perfect for picnics! Kema Sakuranomiya and Expo 70 Commemorative parks both sport more than 5,000 cherry trees.
The Osaka Mint Bureau has later blooming varieties – just in case you get there behind schedule.
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Shizuoka – opening: March 25; best viewing from April 3.
Kanazawa – opening: April 2; best viewing from April 8.
Because it was not bombed during World War II, Kanazawa retains more of its old world charm than most other Japanese cities.
Kenrokuen Garden is considered one of Japan’s three most beautiful parks. It has roughly 400 cherry trees of about 40 varieties. They are illuminated in the evening during cherry blossom season.
Other key viewing spots include the grounds surrounding Kanazawa Castle, the shores of the Asano River, Utatsuyama Park, and the historic Kazue-machi Chaya District, where many traditional restaurants and inns are housed.
Fukushima – opening: April 6; best viewing from April 11.
Sendai – opening: April 9; best viewing from April 14.
Aormori – opening: April 24; best viewing from April 28.
Hakodate – opening: May 3; best viewing from May 6.
Sapporo – opening: May 4; best viewing from May 8.
Updated 10 February 2019.
The Japan Meteorological Agency started predicting the opening and best viewing times for cherry blossoms in the 1950s.
Cherry blossoms are considered to be opening when at least five to six flowers have opened on a sample tree. The best viewing time is considered to be when at least 80% of the flowers on the tree are open.
Japan Is Closer Than You Think!
There is never a bad time to visit Japan, but spring is best if you want to view the country’s legendary cherry blossoms.
Peak cherry blossom season runs from March until May, but keep in mind that they start blooming in the subtropical islands of Okinawa first and work their way slowly northward to the snowy peaks of Hokkaido last.
Check out this short list of 33 Japanese hotels for some travel inspiration!
This cherry blossom travel guide to Japan contains affiliate links.