Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan

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Cherry blossoms in Tokyo and Kyoto. Osaka cherry blossoms, too! Are you planning to visit Japan in spring? If so, then you should definitely make time to see the sakura (cherry blossom) trees. Spring in Japan is a magical time. All around the country, millions of once-barren sakura branches burst open with pink and white flowers. The entire country celebrates. Wondering where to see cherry blossoms in Japan? Here are some of the best places to enjoy the cherry blossom season.

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Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan 2020

I’ve talked about skiing in Japan and all the other great things to do in Japan during the winter. However, my favorite time to be in Japan is once the temperature starts to rise again. That’s when the sakura trees bloom and the hanami parties begin — more on that later. Japanese cherry blossoms are a sight to behold. Read on to learn more about the Japan cherry blossom season and where to enjoy it.

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Hanami: Why See Cherry Blossoms in Japan?

For the uninitiated, the idea of a hanami (flower viewing) party may seem kind of lame. It’s not. It’s anything but. Here are a few reasons cherry blossom season in Japan is my favorite time to visit.

Beautiful and Fleeting

Hanami Season: Pink cherry blossom petals

During the winter, Japan’s streets and parks are marked by dark, knotty sakura tree trunks and their skeletal branches. When spring arrives, these trees suddenly come alive. The environment turns from gray and brown to pink, white and (eventually) green.

This transformation is brief. Less than two weeks after this tableau of cotton candy reveals itself, it begins to disappear. The spring winds catch the petals and they fall like snow to the ground. It’s magical. It’s ephemeral. And it speaks to something in the Japanese soul about how life, beauty, and everything good in the world is fleeting. Ever wondered why tough-guy yakuza (mafia) guys incorporate sakura motifs into their tattoos? It’s because of this: life is beautiful and short. The samurai believed this. Modern mobsters too, but you don’t have to get inked to appreciate the concept.

Time to Party

During cherry blossom season in Japan, people have hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties. The word hanami (花見) is literally the kanji characters for “flower” (花) and “look/watch/view” (見) in Japanese.

crazy yoyogi hanami parties

Japanese food in Hanami Season

Something happens to people during cherry blossom season in Japan. You can see it at hanami parties. People celebrate and let loose in a way that they rarely do any other time of year. People fix elaborate picnics and meet their friends under the trees. They drink, eat delicious Japanese food, and laugh as they watch winter subside and a new year begins. Spring is all about new beginnings, after all. For example, in Japan, the school year begins in spring

When is Cherry Blossom Season in Japan?

cherry blossom close up

Sakura flowers are natural phenomena. Therefore, it’s hard to get fixed dates for the cherry blossom season in Japan. Similarly, the transition of bare trees to pink petals doesn’t happen all at once nation-wide. Instead, Japan’s cherry blossom season starts in the warmest areas of the archipelago. Then it gradually moves north and east. In other words, Osaka Cherry Blossom Season starts before Tokyo cherry blossom season.

What’s the Cherry Blossom Forecast for 2020?

You can find a cherry blossom forecast easily on the web. Yet forecasters can’t fully predict with complete accuracy when everything blooms. Therefore, it’s hard to book flights in advance. That said, the Tokyo cherry blossom season is usually around late March/early April. The Kyoto cherry blossom season usually arrives a few days earlier, along with the rest of the Kansai area (Osaka, Nara, Kobe, etc). It all depends on the local weather, really.

2020 Cherry Blossom Forecast (Approximate!)

  • Fukuoka Cherry Blossom 2020 Dates: March 17-28
  • Hiroshima Cherry Blossom 2020 Dates: March 27 – April 4
  • Okayama Cherry Blossom 2020 Dates: March 31 – April 8
  • Osaka Cherry Blossom 2020 Dates: March 29-April 6
  • Kobe Cherry Blossom 2020 Dates: March 29 – April 6
  • Kyoto Cherry Blossom 2020 Dates: March 27 – April 4
  • Nagoya Cherry Blossom 2020 Dates: March 20 – 30
  • Tokyo Cherry Blossom 2020 Dates: March 18-26
  • Sapporo Cherry Blossom 2020 Dates: May 1-5

Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan 2020

I’ve lived in Japan for over 13 years, and there is no better week of the year for me than cherry blossom season. Here you’ll see some of the best places to see sakura trees in full bloom. These are only a few, really, and almost all of my recommendations are in or near bigger cities. That said, every area of the country has its own special place.

Cherry Blossom in Tokyo 2020

Hanami Season: Where to see cherry blossoms in Japan with kids sakura hanami lantern sakura hanami bridge blur bokeh

I’ve been to many, many hanami parties in Tokyo — some with the family, some not. Here are my recommendations for where to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo…and where not to.

Shinjuku Gyoen

This is the most beautiful park in the city, and so naturally it’s a popular place to see several species of cherry blossom in Tokyo. It’s spacious and impeccably clean — perfect for watching the pink petals fall. You can even get away without using a ground cloth in some areas. Is the weather still chilly? Then step into the garden’s impressive greenhouse and warm up.

Some families think Shinjuku Gyoen is the best city location for hanami in Japan with kids because of its early closing time and restrictions on alcohol. The garden starts announcing closing time at 3:30 pm and everyone is out by 4 pm. You will need to pay a small entrance fee but are allowed to bring your own food and drink to have a picnic there.

As for alcohol, I won’t say that they have zero-tolerance. I’ve personally brought in bottles of wine without feeling like a smuggler. They let you pass if your booze is within reason, and you don’t act like a drunkard who could cause trouble. It’s not just me: you’ll see crowds of pensioners sipping wine or sake, as well. Contrast this with parks like Yoyogi Park. Here people haul in crates of beer, ice, and BBQ by the wheelbarrow for a full day of partying.

There’s one final advantage for Shinjuku Gyoen — and it’s the reason you should see the Tokyo cherry blossoms least once here. The garden has multiple species of cherry blossom in Tokyo. One of them is the yaezakura, which usually blooms later than the others. That means that when all the other trees are bare, you can still come here for one last hurrah.

  • Nearest Stations: Shinjuku Gyoenmae, Shinjuku, Shinjuku Sanchome, Sendagaya.

Yoyogi Park

This is my personal favorite place to see cherry blossoms in Japan — with or without kids. However, I must admit that it isn’t as wholesome or family-friendly as some of the other places I’ll mention. Why? Well, this is where lots of students have their parties. Plenty of artsy and alternative types, too. Here you’ll see more people in goofy costumes, and many parties bring their own sound systems as well. There are, of course, many families too. Including mine.

I’ve been going to hanami parties in Yoyogi Park since 2001. Back then I volunteered to arrive early morning and set up the tarps for the company picnic at my old job. There’s something about the wild, crazy energy here. I just love it. It’s safe, too, but keep in mind that there are a lot of drunk people around. One of them might be me.

  • Nearest Stations: Harajuku, Meiji-Jingumae, Yoyogi Koen.

Monzen Nakacho and the Sumida River

east tokyo cherry blossoms

Let me let you in on a little secret: my old neighborhood is an awesome place for a hanami party. We lived on Tokyo’s east side for nearly seven years. Our backyard was the Sumida River, and large stretches of it are lined with sakura trees. This is an excellent place to walk past the cherry blossoms or to have a picnic under them.

Another bonus of the Monzen Nakacho neighborhood is that the entire area is a latticework of canals Some call it the “Venice of Tokyo.” Most of these canals are also lined with sakura trees. During the weekends they’re blooming, you can find a very charming and authentic matsuri (festival) with mostly local visitors. Consider an east Tokyo cherry blossom day during the hanami season.

  • Nearest Stations: Monzen Nakacho & Tsukishima

Kasai Rinkai Park

If you’re a family with young kids staying near Disneyland, then this is a good spot to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo. On the eastern edge of town, Kasai Rinkai park hugs the shore of Tokyo Bay. You’ll find plenty of space to stretch out here. There’s also a Ferris wheel, a kiddy train and many playgrounds to keep little ones occupied. If the weather hasn’t turned warm yet, the wind off the bay can make it feel even chillier, so pack accordingly. The Tokyo Sea Life Park is located here as well and can be a nice diversion or place to warm up if the wind picks up.

  • Nearest Station: Kasai Rinkai Koen

Arisugawa Park

This is a great spot to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s a beautiful park with plenty of paths and hills for kids (and adults) to run free on. Secondly, the nearby National Azabu supermarket has all the imported drinks and snacks you may crave for your picnic. Finally, since the park is in the Hiroo neighborhood, you’ve got lots of nice dinner options once the sun goes down. If that’s not enough, the restaurants and museums of the Roppongi neighborhood are minutes away, as well. Keep in mind that Arisugawa Park has a lot of stairs and rocky paths, so strollers and wheelchairs beware. Take the sidewalk around to the east side.

  • Nearest Station: Hiroo

Aoyama Cemetery

Yes, I’m telling you to go walk around a cemetery. But hey, it’s one of the most beautiful places to see cherry blossoms in Japan. This is a picnic-on-concrete situation. Therefore, I usually prefer a walk-through as opposed to a sit-down affair. That said, both are possible in the right place and with the right attitude. Don’t worry: you won’t be the only one who’s having a picnic there. A beautiful Tokyo cherry blossom experience.

  • Nearest Stations: Gaienmae, Aoyama-Itchome

Nakameguro River

Nakameguro is a cool neighborhood with hip shops, cafes, and restaurants. When the cherry blossoms are in bloom, a lot of the establishments along the riverside sell food and drinks on the sidewalk. Beautiful night or day, I especially recommend a stroll through after dark when the trees are lit. One of the best places for cherry blossoms in Tokyo after dark.

  • Nearest Station: Nakameguro

Ueno Park

Okay, so I’ll end my Tokyo cherry blossom locations with one that I don’t recommend: Ueno Park. Many will recommend it. Not me. Are the cherry blossoms in Ueno beautiful? Yes. Is there a festive atmosphere? Absolutely. That said, I have never had a good hanami experience in Ueno. This is purely anecdotal of course, but the fact is that most hanami parties in Ueno park are on the sidewalk. On concrete. Moreover, there are thousands of people walking past every minute, and few open spaces for my kids (or me) to walk around or blow off some steam. Should you go see the cherry blossoms in Ueno? Sure, but I wouldn’t bring the picnic here. Instead, go for a walk through the grounds and then head somewhere with open space for a picnic.

  • Nearest Stations: Ueno, Ueno Kachimachi, Uguisudani

Osaka Cherry Blossom Spots 2020

osaka cherry blossom walk.

Osaka sometimes gets a bad rap. More industrial than Tokyo, less green than Kyoto, Osaka fits in an odd space in Japan. And I love it here. Osaka is also known as “Japan’s kitchen” because the food is so great. More importantly, the people of Osaka — a little more blue-collar, a little less uptight — are some of my favorite people in the country. I should know: I married one!

The Japan Mint & Osaka Castle 

The path around Osaka Castle has hundreds of trees. You’ll also find the late-blooming yaezakura, that Tokyo cherry blossom species I mentioned at Shinjuku Gyoen. This is a great place to see cherry blossoms in Osaka, but not the place to sit down for a picnic. If you would rather sit down, the Japan Mint is another great Osaka cherry blossom viewing spot. Walk over to Nishinomaru Park where you get to have views of the Osaka Castle tower and light up in the evening.

  • Nearest stations: Osakajokitazume Station, Temmabashi Station, and many others.

Expo’70 Commemorative Park

This park stands on the site where Osaka hosted the World Expo in 1970. It’s a huge park, and there are over 5,000 cherry trees here. In addition, there is more space to run around, and some cool museums, too. This park usually closes at 17:00, but during the Osaka cherry blossom season, they are open till 21:00. The trees are illuminated from 18:00.

Since this is a huge park, it’ll take a bit of walking from the station to reach the hanami party area. Also, keep in mind that there are no stores around, so carry your own supplies in. There are, however, some delivery services available. Don’t be surprised if you see a Domino’s pizza guy handing off a few pies. That said, I highly recommended preparing all the food and drinks before you get there.

  • Nearest Station: Bampakukinenkoen Station

Kema Sakuranomiya Park

With over 5,000 sakura trees, this spot is great for a hanami by the river. It’s also close to the Japan Mint (mentioned above), which is only open to the public in April.

  • Nearest Station: Sakuranomiya Station

Kyoto Cherry Blossom Locations 2020

Kyoto cherry blossom walk at night

Looking for the best places to see cherry blossoms in Kyoto? This is one of the most beautiful times to be in Kyoto. It’s also one of the most crowded. Despite this, seeing Kyoto cherry blossom petals fall on the temples and shrines is an amazing experience.

Arashiyama

This is one of the most beautiful places in Japan in my opinion, and we love being here during spring. Many people come here to see the bamboo forest. But arrive in late March/early April and you might catch the Kyoto cherry blossoms, as well.

Maruyama Park

Save this one for after dark. The star attraction for me in Maruyama Park is the shidare zakura (weeping willow cherry blossom) trees, which they illuminate at night. Magical.

  • Nearest Station: Gion Shijo Station

The Philosopher’s Path

I love walking in Kyoto any time of year, but it’s especially beautiful in spring. This is a good time to see Ginkaku-ji Temple to Wakaoji-jinja. The Philosopher’s path runs between them

Cherry Blossoms in Nara 2020

nara sakura. Hanami in Japan: Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan

Nara Park

In addition to the astounding temples and 1,500+ cherry blossom trees in Nara Park, there are also deer. Like, over a thousand of them. These deer are tame too. Too tame, to be honest. Just be careful with what food you’re carrying and what’s visible in your hands and bag. One time when we were there, Keiko had a few pastries hanging off a clip on her backpack. They were in a plastic bag, but a deer must have smelled them. He ripped the small bag off the clip and chewed them up, plastic bag and all. We felt like morons and wondered how the poor creatures would digest two croissants still wrapped in plastic.

  • Nearest Station: Kintetsu Nara Station

Wakakusa Yama

Mount Wakakusa is not really a mountain per se, but more like a hilltop behind Nara Park. You can enjoy cherry blossoms there as well.

Mount Yoshino

Often named as one of the best locations for cherry blossoms in Japan, Mount Yoshino has upwards to 30,000 trees. We recommend going to the top and hiking down.

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Have You Seen Cherry Blossoms in Japan?

kyoto cherry blossoms in arashiyama

Would you want to see cherry blossoms in Japan? These are the places we are most familiar with, but there are amazing places to see cherry blossoms all over Japan. Tell us where you’ve seen them in the comments below. Or where you want to see them. Where should people see cherry blossoms in Japan?

Further Reading:

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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means, at no extra cost to you,  we might receive a small commission if you make a purchase or book a hotel in Japan using those links. My opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help you enjoys the cherry blossoms in Japan. 

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Comments

  1. Bee Ling Goh says

    Hi Jason,

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences in Japan. I thoroughly enjoyed your articles/website, very insightful and glad to find it this time.

    We (+ 2 kids 9&11) are planning our second trip to Japan in late June for 12 days in total. We would like to explore Tokyo and the surrounding areas this time since we spent most of our time in Kyoto and Osaka couple years ago.

    I am still overwhelm with how big Tokyo is and where to stay. We love Japanese food so much so that my son thought he is going to Japan just for sushi, sashimi and tempura! Our plan is to stay in a hotel in Shinjuku for the first 2 nights followed by 4-5 nights in Airbnb in Shinjuku. This is where I am a bit stuck deciding best suburb to stay on the east side so that we can commuting easily to Asakusa, Odaiba, Tsukiji Market and a day trip to Disneyland.

    Hope you don’t mind sharing your thought. Thanks Jason.

    Kind Regards
    Bee Ling

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