Sakura Season in Japan

Sakura season in Japan is one of the most popular times to visit the country. Sakura 桜 – meaning flowering of cherry trees – had been drawing millions of international visitors to the country each year. While my favorite season in Japan is the autumn colors season – known as koyo – it is still impossible to remain indifferent to the beauty of a flowering cherry tree and the joy that it brings to the entire country.

Witnessing the excitement of Tokyo locals for a nature event that they get to experience every single year is my favorite thing about Sakura, even more than the flower itself. There is no better season than the Sakura to witness and appreciate a cultural aspect of Japan that I admire the most, the fact that many well-established and “religiously” followed rituals concern the celebration of nature.

In the parks, you will often encounter families enjoying this hope-raising season with their picnic baskets and bikes parked at their sides. A scenery that always feels out of a dream. I always like to imagine that dad and mom might have taken the day off from work to enjoy the arrival of the spring season as a family on a relatively less busy weekday. And it is not only families, even the companies organize cherry blossom viewing picnics and parties, known as hanami – 花見. If you visit Ueno Park in Tokyo during the cherry blossom season in the late afternoon, do not be surprised by hundreds of people, if not thousands, sitting on a picnic blanket on the floor and doing hanami with their colleagues.

I often ask Japanese friends which season they like the most, underlining my strong preference for the fall colors season. Their answer, however, almost uniformly, points to Sakura, noting that the first sakura bloom signifies the end of the winter, thus the ending of harsh conditions, and the beginning of the spring, the messenger of hope. I also think that the very short period during which the cherry trees bloom, merely a week, elevates the desirability of this already seductively beautiful flower.

When is the best time to see the cherry blossoms in Japan?

The best time to see the Sakura in major cities in Japan like Tokyo and Kyoto is usually the end of March, but the exact dates vary each year based on the yearly temperature fluctation. There are many sites periodically updating their Sakura forecast. The first forecasts are usually published around January. Since I moved to Japan in 2019, the sakura season seems to be happening a little earlier each year.

The Sakura forecast published by Kishou is the most reliable one. According to the most recent 2024 cherry blossom forecast published on 28 March 2024, the flowers will start blooming in Tokyo around March 29th and will reach the peak by April 1st. As for Kyoto, the first bloom date is currently forecasted as March 29th with the peak bloom expected around April 3rd.

Women under sakura tree in Japan

There are, however, many different kinds of sakura flowers, and one specific kind, known as kawazu sakura, blooms as early as February each year. Kawazu town, located in Izu Peninsula, which can be easily accessed from Tokyo in 1-2 hours, is a perfect place for an early Sakura outing.

The entire season lasts from February (Okinawa, the southernmost part of Japan, is the first region to experience Sakura) through May, with Hokkaido being the last island to welcome the cherry blossoms. So, if you have time and flexibility to move around, you can always find a place to experience the Sakura during the spring season that runs from February till late May.

My favorite Sakura spots in Tokyo 

Tokyo, where I live, is home to many beautiful parks, each hosting hundreds of cherry trees. Being the most populated city in Japan and one of the main destinations for international visitors, many parks, like beautiful Shinjuku Gyoen, get very crowded during the Sakura season.

Ueno Park, Meguro River, Yoyogi Park are all very popular cherry blossom viewing spots in Tokyo. But if you are looking for a more intimate Sakura viewing experience, allow me introduce you to two parks that are lesser known to the visitors, offering a perfect local atmosphere and substantially less crowds during the Sakura season.

I live in Eastern Tokyo, home to the largest public park in Tokyo; I prefer to enjoy the Sakura season in the relative calmness of Mizumoto Park and Shinozaki Park, both located in Katsushika, one of the largest districts of Tokyo separated from Chiba by the lovely Edo River.

Both parks located in the Eastern part of the city, and easily accessible from Asakusa allow one to immerse in the beauty of the flowers with substantially less crowds and in an entirely local atmosphere.

Sakura viewing in Mizumoto Park

Mizumoto Park is very large. So I often ride my bike to the park, rather than taking the bus, to be able to cover each hidden corner and check out almost every cherry tree. Mizumoto gets its share of local crowds during the Sakura season but, thanks to its size, never feels as crowded as the parks of central Tokyo.

I recommend spending at least a half day in the park. Bringing your own picnic is the better option, but there are also a couple of cafes spread around the park serving drinks and simple foods such as soba. There are comfortable wooden picnic tables in certain sections of the park, but sitting on the grass, the more popular way of doing hanami, is also perfectly acceptable.

I wrote more about transportation to Mizumoto Park in this post – Mizumoto Park: Seasons in Tokyo.

Shinozaki Park

Sakura viewing in Shinozaki Park

While the other alternative – Shinozaki Park, is much smaller, there are many massive Sakura trees in the park. It does not have cafes, but it is surrounded by many convenience stores in case you run out of your wine or beer while enjoying the sakura.

Even though the scenery in Mizumoto Park, where you can almost forget that you are in a city, is more mesmerizing, Shinozaki Park is still inviting enough for me thanks to its compactness and the massive cherry trees that it is home to. Again, this is an open park where you do not have to pay any entrance fee.
One of the quickest ways to access Shinozaki Park from central Tokyo is to get on the Chuo-Sobu JR Line and get off the train at Koiwa Station. From Koiwa Station, you can get on the bus number 72. If you choose to walk, it only takes 30 minutes, and along your walk, you will get to experience a very down-to-earth side of Tokyo that feels a million miles away from the busier parts of the city.

Next time you are in Tokyo, consider leaving the central part of the city and enjoying the season among the locals in lesser-known but equally rewarding public parks.

Thank you for your time reading this post. If you are currently planning your trip to Japan, you may also be interested in checking out the following posts:

You can start with my Japan travel guide here.

If you are not short on time, there are countless destinations in Japan. Getting off the mainland to visit the smaller islands is a wonderful option to experience the “extremely” rural life centered around the ocean and fishing. These are some of my favorite islands in Japan.

If you like hiking, you are in luck. Mountains cover 70% of Japan`s land, and host thousands of trails fit for both beginner and advanced hikers, these are some of the hikes in Japan easily accessible with public transportation.

To experience the famous onsen (hot springs) culture of Japan, you can check out my post where I listed some of my favorite onsen in Japan.

If you visit Japan during the fall colors season, these are some of my favorite fall foliage viewing destinations in the country.

These are some of my favorite things to do in Kyoto.

I also recently wrote about some beloved Tohoku destinations.