Cherry Blossom in Japan 2018: A Guide to Hanami
Spring in Japan marks the arrival of cherry blossom season. During this time, the whole nation will be covered with various shades of white and pink. Get ready to immerse yourself in the magical festival of the “Land of the Rising Sun” and enjoy one of the most quirky cultures in Asia.
Cherry blossom (or Sakura) symbolizes the rebirth, pure beauty and vitality. It is a Japan’s iconic flower that anyone in the world wishes to witness at least once in a lifetime. The cherry blossom season lasts for a short period of time and varies depending on the weather condition each year. Generally, the cherry blossoms will start blooming as an upward shift from the south to the north of Japan. To simplify your planning, just follow our forecast of Japan’s cherry blossom in 2018 based on different areas!
When & Where to catch cherry blossom
Annually, Japan witnesses the first cherry blossoms in Okinawa in around January/February, followed by the middle of Japan in March & April, and end with a final bloom in northern Hokkaido in May.
To specify the accurate locations and time of cherry blossom 2018, you can take a look at our infographic below:
Please noted that these dates are subject to be changed. We’ll be updating it when further information is released.
Okinawa is the first region in Japan to see cherry blossom each year, usually, beginning from mid-January till mid-February. Nakijin Castle, Nago Central Park, Yogi Park & Yaese Park are the most famous observing spots. Also, tourists can drive to Mt. Yaedakein on the Motobu Peninsula to enjoy 4000 magnificent Kanhizakura (Taiwanese cherry trees) planted alongside the trail to the mountaintop.
According to 2018 Cherry blossom forecast of Japan, the cherry blooming season in the cities comprising Fukuoka, Osaka, Kyoto & Tokyo will begin from March 28 and last for 1 week. The best spots for cherry blossom observing (hanami) in these cities include:
- Fukuoka: Nishi Park, Maizuru Park, Uminonakamichi Seaside Park and Atago Shrine.
- Osaka: Kema Sakuranomiya Park, Osaka Castle and Osaka Mint Bureau.
- Kyoto: Philosopher’s Path, Maruyama Park, Arashiyama, Harada-en Garden and Daigoji Temple
- Tokyo: Shinjuku Gyoen, Ueno Park, Sumida Park, Yoyogi Park, Asukayama Park, Inokashira Park and Koishikawa Botanical Garden.
Nara, an ancient capital sits a short train ride from Kyoto can also offer you great opportunity to catch cherry blossoms (begin from the early April). The public Nara Park is the most beautiful site for hanami as it is home to hundreds of freely roaming deer and surrounded by nearly 2000 cherry trees.
Fukushima, located in the north of Japan. If you’ve missed a chance to experience hanami in the southern cities, then Fukushima is your last chance to catch this natural wonder. Surrounding a rural farming community, Hanamiyama Park is recommended as the best picture-taking hanami spots in Fukushima with lovely views of the Azuma Mountains in the distance.
Since Hokkaido is the northernmost island in Japan, it’s the last place to be warmed up in the spring. Thus, Hokkaido’s cherry blossoms bloom in the late April, about a month late compared to Tokyo. Hokkaido owns many beautiful hanami spots, and the four most popular of those are Hakodate’s Goryokaku, Matsumae Castle, Odori Park and Moerenuma Park.
How to hanami like a local
Hanami is just a simple Japanese word means “cherry blossom viewing”. Basically, hanami is a picnic. If you can get yourself a picnic spot, some gear and friends, this means you are enjoying the cherry blossom in a real way. However, there are some etiquette rules you should follow:
Check if eating and drinking are allowed – Make sure your picnic spot permits barbecues or alcoholic beverages, if not, pack hanami picnic with cold and pre-prepared food. Some parks even have no eating or drinking rules. So it is better if you’re going with Japanese friends, a guide, or colleagues as they’ll know local etiquette rules.
To prepare a hanami, here is a list of basic things you should bring:
- Thin cushion for sitting, or a small folding chair
- Garbage bags
- Warm clothes
- Paper cups, plates and disposable chopsticks
- Wet wipes/tissues
- Bottle opener / Wine opener
- Food & Drink
Picnic spots are first-come-first-serve – Crowds are obvious if the weather is good. You may find it challenging to get a picnic spot, especially in the popular areas or during the peak blossom season. Arriving early (maybe from 5 am) is the best way to help you get a spot. However, sometimes, the presence of cherry trees at any location does not mean you are allowed to picnic in this area. So be sure you are allowed to picnic there before you set up.
Take your shoes off – A picnic sheet on the ground is considered as an inside area, so take off your shoes when you visit a friend’s mat. It is better if you wear shoes that are easy to take off and on.
Don’t mess with the trees – Take tons of photographs with cherry blossoms but do not touch them or break off a branch to take home. It’s completely disrespectful.
Take out your garbage – Be prepared to dispose of your garbage in your own bags as some parks don’t have garbage collection capacity enough for the huge crowd. Treat your beautiful picnic spot where you’ve just spent such a wonderful time as though it’s your own home.
As you know, cherry blossom season is a Japanese special spring feature, an embodiment of an age-old culture that cannot be described in a single word. Hopefully, you can use our travel guide to plan your next Japan trip and enjoy the quintessential beauty of this iconic flower.