Spring in Japan: When and where to see the cherry blossoms in Japan

Time to celebrate sakura-lovers – Japan’s annual cherry blossom forecast for 2017 is out!

This is definitely one of the most anticipated forecasts for Japan and travel lovers – the one document that thousands of visitors to Japan plan their travel schedules on. Even while the mountains are still blanketed in snow and the locals and travelers are still bundled up in coats, the promise of the cherry blossoms’ eventual comeback is enough to warm us up.

And now the wait is over. The Japan Meteorological Agency just released the forecast for Spring 2017. Hooray! Now get booking because Hanami 2017 is surely going to be a hit – if the past years’ boom in Japan travel is any indication.

To help you plan your holidays, check out these one-week itineraries for Spring in Japan 2017 – all centered around the blooming of cherry trees. If you have more than a week (lucky you!), pair them up.

Even after the cherry blossom season, these itineraries are a good way to see the best of Japan. So make sure to bookmark this for future trips or send to your Japan-loving friend.

There's nothing quite as beautiful as the sight of a thousand cherry trees bursting with pale pink flowers come springtime in Japan. These one-week itineraries will help you plan and navigate your way around Hanami 2017. Click through to find out when and where to see the cherry blossoms in Japan this coming spring!

Chasing Cherry Blossoms: One-week itineraries for Spring in Japan 2017

  1. March 28 to April 4, 2017 – Kanto: Tokyo and surrounding areas
  2. April 3 to 10, 2017 – Kinki: Kyoto and surrounding areas
  3. May 4 to 11, 2017 – Hokkaido: Sapporo and surrounding areas
  4. Map of all locations

 Kanto: Tokyo and surrounding areas

Best time to visit: March 28 to April 4, 2017

Spend at least 3 days in Tokyo. Visit the parks and join in on the hanami parties. Pack your own picnic lunch or try out Japanese street food from the many stalls that are set up around the public parks. From Tokyo, take a day trip to Yokohama and go around the Minatomirai district. Then move on to Yamanashi prefecture and spend a couple of days exploring the area around Mt. Fuji.

Cherry blossoms in Tokyo

Where to see the cherry blossoms in Tokyo:

  • Shinjuku Gyoen (Shinjukugyoen-mae or Shinjuku station) – This is one of Tokyo’s most beautiful gardens, with over a thousand cherry trees. This is a perfect spot for walking and is calmer and quieter than the other parks. You can combine this with a shopping and food trip around Shinjuku or a visit to the Meiji shrine. Afterwards, hop over to Yoyogi Park.
  • Yoyogi Park (Harajuku station) – Go here for a picnic under the cherry trees. Try out Japanese street food while you’re here and check out Takeshita-dori for a glimpse of Japanese pop culture.
  • Ueno Park (Ueno station) – If you love parties and people, Ueno Park gets really crowded during the cherry blossoms season. Afterwards, you can hop on to Akihabara or Asakusa for a cultural day trip.
  • Sumida Park (Asakusa station) – You can enjoy the cherry blossoms while cruising on a boat along Sumida river. Combine with a cultural trip around Asakusa and end the day with views from the Tokyo Sky Tree.

Where to see the cherry blossoms in Yokohama:

  • Arrive at Sakuragicho station in Minatomirai district
  • Walk to Kishamichi Promenade and Sakura-dori for amazing views of the city against the backdrop of cherry trees.
  • Spend the afternoon at Rinko Park.
  • If you have more time, visit the Sankeien Garden and the Mitsuike Park.

Where to see the cherry blossoms in Yamanashi:

  • From Tokyo, make your way to Fujikawaguchiko in the Yamanashi prefecture. This is a good spot for viewing the cherry blossoms as Mt. Fuji and the beautiful Lake Kawaguchi are nearby.
  • Beautiful spots include: the Chureito Pagoda, the Kawaguchiko Music Forest, Iyashi no Sato, Kanazakura shrine, and the Jiunji shrine.
  • Hike around the surrounding areas while you’re there.

Cherry blossoms in Fujikawaguchiko share the spotlight with Mt. Fuji.

Essential information: Visiting Tokyo and Yamanashi

Getting there

  • Arrive in Narita or Haneda airport and make your way to Tokyo via train or limousine bus.
  • From Tokyo, you can get to Fujikawaguchiko via a series of trains or a bus – check Jorudan or Google Maps for schedules.

Where to stay in Tokyo

Where to stay in Fujikawaguchiko

Kinki: Kyoto and surrounding areas

Best time to visit: April 3 to 10, 2017

For first-timers in the Kinki region, Kyoto and Osaka are both good bases from which to explore the surrounding areas. Kyoto can take about 2-3 days to explore, while Osaka has a more central location if you plan to visit the neighboring cities. The Wakayama prefecture nearby also offers amazing cherry blossom spots and is worth at least a 2-day stay, especially if you love hiking.

Cherry blossoms in Kyoto

Where to see the cherry blossoms in Kyoto:

  • Arashiyama – This place is gorgeous in all seasons, but especially during spring.
  • Ninna-ji Temple
  • Daigoji Temple
  • Maruyama Garden – This is Kyoto’s oldest garden, which opened in 1886. In spring, 800 cherry trees bloom, the most famous one being the shidarekazura or weeping cherry tree. At night, the trees are illuminated, offering a wonderful night viewing experience.

Where to see the cherry blossoms in Osaka:

  • Osaka Castle Park
  • Japan Mint – This is a tunnel of cherry blossoms illuminated by paper lanterns in the evening.

In spring, the cherry blossoms frame the white castle of Himeji, making it one of the most beautiful sights in Japan.

Where to see the cherry blossoms in Himeji:

  • Himeji castle – In itself, the castle is a national treasure and Japan’s most beautiful one. In spring, the cherry blossoms frame the white castle, making it one of the most beautiful sights in Japan.

Where to see the cherry blossoms in Nara Park:

  • Nara Park – The park has over a thousand cherry trees and a great destination for travelers who love learning about culture. The area houses several shrines and temples. For latecomers, a rare ancient cherry tree called the “Narano-yaezakura” blooms in the Nara Park from the end of April to early May.
  • Yoshino – The mountain is considered a sacred place of cherry trees in Japan. With over 30,000 cherry trees, the blooms spring from bottom to the top of the mountain from early to late April, covering the mountain. As you can imagine, this makes for a pretty spectacular view.
  • Koriyama Castle Park – This is a park established on the ruins of the Koriyama castle with about a thousand cherry trees planted around the castle moats.

Where to see the cherry blossoms in Wakayama:

  • Kimiidera Temple – Early blooming cherry trees are planted in the temple grounds, effectively announcing the arrival of spring in the Kansai region. This is a good place to visit if you happen to come early (end of March to early April).
  • Negoro-ji Temple – The temple is located in the southern foot of the Katsuragi Mountain Range. With around 7000 cherry trees bloom in spring, the temple grounds become covered in pink blossoms.
  • Shichikawa Dam Lake – This is a lake located in the mountainous region of southern Wakayama. More than 3000 cherry trees complement the views of the green mountains and deep blue lake.

Essential information: Visiting Kansai

Getting there

  • Arrive in Kansai International Airport or via the shinkansen at Shin-Osaka station.
  • To get to Wakayama, you can ride the commuter train or drive a rental car.
  • If you plan to visit other regions outside Kansai, your cheapest and most convenient option is to use a Japan Rail Pass. This is a pass available only to foreign tourists to Japan that gives you unlimited shinkansen rides, as well as train rides using the JR lines, for a set period of time. Find out more about the JR Pass here.

Where to stay in Kyoto

Where to stay in Osaka

Where to stay in Wakayama

Hokkaido: Sapporo and surrounding areas

Best time to visit: May 4 to 11, 2017

Hokkaido is the perfect destination for nature-lovers, especially those who want to join in on the cherry blossom craze but not particularly fond of jostling with the crowds. Beyond the cherry blossoms spots, Hokkaido has so much to offer in terms of sceneries, road trip destinations, food, and culture, so I suggest you spend at least a full week in the area. Sapporo is the best base, especially if you plan to drive around.

Cherry blossoms in Hokkaido

Where to see the cherry blossoms in Sapporo:

  • Maruyama Park and Hokkaido Shrine – These two adjacent locations are perfect for picnics and taking part in hanami parties.
  • Nakajima Park – You can see a variety of cherry trees and ride a boat around the central pond.
  • Odori Park – The most convenient place for hanami, as it is right in the center of downtown Sapporo.
  • Moerunuma Park – The park’s cherry trees bloom a bit later than the other parks in Sapporo so if you’re late to the (hanami) party, this could be a good spot to try and catch some blooms.

Where to see the cherry blossoms elsewhere in Hokkaido:

  • Matsumae Park – Matsumae is a castle town in the southernmost part of Hokkaido with lots of historical sites and landmarks. Make sure to feast on seafood while there.
  • Goryukaku Park in Hakodate
  • Noboribetsu Onsen Flower Tunnel – This is a flower tunnel stretching 8 kilometers, set in one of Japan’s hot spring resorts. It’s great for a driving trip, and of course, stay a while and dip in on one of the onsens (public baths).
  • Shizunai Nijukken Road – This is a Hokkaido heritage site and the cherry blossoms along the road are said to be the best row of cherry trees in Japan. Expect a bit of a traffic jam when you do go here, so start early. The area is also home to many horse farms so you might want to check those out as well.
  • Seiryuji Temple (Nemuro) – The cherry blossoms in Nemuro are the last to bloom in Japan, so it’s perfect for latecomers who would still like a glimpse of the ephemeral cherry blossoms (annual averages are May 16-22).

Essential information: Visiting Hokkaido

Getting there

  • Three airports serve Hokkaido (New Chitose, Asahikawa, Sapporo Okadama) so look into air travel as an option to get to the area. Otherwise, you can reach Sapporo by shinkansen as well.
  • While it’s possible to go around Hokkaido using the public transportation, it’s much more comfortable and convenient to travel around by car. Here’s a great guide to driving in Hokkaido.

Where to stay in Sapporo

Map: Where to see the cherry blossoms in Japan

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Gear up, sakura-lovers! It’s going to be a fun month-long hanami party around Japan. I hope this guide helps you plan your trip – and catch those pretty cherry blossoms in Japan.

I’d suggest planning and booking your trip as early as right now. Japan gets pretty crowded during the cherry blossoms season as everyone wants to witness the pretty pink blooms.

If you have any comments or questions, let me know in the comments or contact me! Happy travels!

(Photo credits: Jannes Glas, steviekunfoto, nipomen2, Warapong Hongtawee, ihsopuqak, DDally001. Creative commons.)

2 Replies to “Spring in Japan: When and where to see the cherry blossoms in Japan”

    1. You should head to Hokkaido then! 🙂 Absolutely amazing place, especially if you love nature and getting active. Try also looking into renting a car! You can send me an email if you need more help planning – Japan can be difficult to navigate for first-timers but it’s totally doable. 🙂

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