Japan: Cherry Trees Are Blossoming Early This Year

Cherry trees blooming at the Yasukuni Shrine. Photo Credit: Sakura Saku Kuni via Wikimedia Commons.

Festivals and Holidays

Owing to a milder than usual winter, cherry blossoms in Japan are starting to bloom several days earlier than usual this year, the Japan Weather Association reports.

Which means, if you are planning a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun to experience this thrilling spectacle, you might want to see if you can move things forward a bit.

Generally speaking, cherry blossoms reach full bloom 10 days after they first start opening up. They remain in full bloom for between five and 12 days, depending on the type of cherry tree – and the weather. Heavy rains, strong winds, and/or a drop in temperatures can bring bring the viewing season to a sudden halt.

The weather is unpredictable, and there are no guarantees. Things change year to year.

Cherry Blossom Front Moves North

Of Japan’s major cities, Fukuoka was the first in which cherry blossoms opened this year. They started blooming on 14 March, which is more than one week earlier than usual. They should have reached full bloom yesterday and will be best viewed through 30 March.

Cherry blossoms started opening five days later in Kyoto on 19 March. Their estimated best viewing period will run from 27 March through 6 April. 

In Tokyo, cherry blossoms usually start blooming on 28 March. This year, they are expected to start blooming today. The estimated best viewing period is 29 March through 7 April. Cherry blossoms are expected to start opening in Osaka on Thursday. They are expected to be at their peak from 30 March through 7 April.

Sapporo is Japan’s northernmost major city. Cherry blossoms are expected to start opening there on 3 May. The peak blooming period is expected to run from 5 May through 10 May.

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.

Washington, DC

Japan isn’t the only place you can view cherry blossoms. Washington, DC, in the United States puts on a pretty spectacular show of its own. This year’s blooming period is expected to run from 31 March through 11 April. The peak blooming dates are forecast for 3 April through 8 April, according to National Park Service Horticulturalists.

The best spot to view cherry blossoms in Washington, DC, are along the shores of the Tidal Basin, which is where most of the city’s numerous national monuments and memorials are located. The National Cherry Blossom Festival will be held this year from 27 March through 11 April.