Best Places to View Cherry Blossoms in Japan
Having just arrived in Japan for my study abroad program, I still didn’t have a grasp on what exactly “Japan” was. Sure, I could watch anime, google quirky Japanese inventions, or envy their fashion from afar…but I still didn’t have a feel for what Japan was actually like and how the people lived their lives. However, I knew that cherry blossoms in Japan were a big part of spring culture and I intended to appreciate it as fully as I could.
Cherry blossoms begin blooming in the south in February and work their way up the chain of islands that form Japan, lasting for a few weeks in each region. The sakura – as they’re called in Japanese – bloom in Tokyo from mid-March until the beginning of April.
Ueno Park is one of the best places to view cherry blossoms in Tokyo. It’s a special place for hanami, or flower viewing–not just for its size and popularity, but for the beauty of the park seen in its numerous sculptures and the nature all around. Vendors line the streets selling everything from fried fish, to traditional fans, to cherry blossom-flavored ice cream.
I went to a few more hanami during my time in Japan, and while it’s impossible to define a culture, the flowering viewing events taught me a lot of the things I love about Japan. The vibrant pink flowers brighten everyone’s day and bring people together.
On my third day in Japan, I was headed to a meet-up with travelers and locals. On the way, walking from my hostel in bustling Shinjuku, through the quieter areas above Iidabashi, and past the electronics district of Akihabara, I stopped at a kombini–a convenience store.
A Japanese convenience store takes the word “convenience” seriously. You can buy concert tickets, pay your bills, stock up on toiletries, get bus tickets, grab something to eat or drink, browse the cheap alcohol, get medicine…the list goes on. These stores are on every block in Tokyo. This time, I chose rice crackers as a snack to bring to the hanami.
A flower viewing might not sound like the most exciting thing in the world, so I was pleasantly surprised when I showed up at the park. Everyone throws a tarp on the ground, pops open a beer, and socializes the day away. A cherry blossom tree will be in the vicinity.
I went to a few more hanami during my time in Japan, and while it’s impossible to define a culture, the flowering viewing events taught me a lot of the things I love about Japan. The vibrant pink flowers brighten everyone’s day and bring people together. Company employees, friends, couples, and families lay aside their stress for a few hours to enjoy nature and the company around them. In one group you’ll see college students drinking a few too many Asahi beers, and across from them will be a group of elderly Japanese people painting the trees in fine detail.
After five months in Japan, the cherry blossom season and hanami parties are some of my favorite memories. Far more valuable than the parties, cherry blossom-flavored food and vacation time, cherry blossom season in Japan teaches you to relax and enjoy what’s right in front of you.
If you’re not in Tokyo, here are the general cherry blossom seasons for regions in Japan as well as the best places to see them:
- Okinawa – Early February February – Naha City Yogi Park
- Izu Peninsula – Early March – Kawazu
- Fukuoka – Late March – Fukuoka Castle
- Kyoto – Early April – Philosopher’s Path
- Fuji – Mid April – Fuji Five Lakes
- Akita Prefecture – Late April – Kakunodate
- Aomori, Tohoku – Late April – Hirosaki Castle
- Nagano Prefecture – Late April – Takato Castle Ruins Park
- Hakodate, Hokkaido – Early May – Fort Goryokaku