Japan's 2020 cherry blossom season
Planning to book a holiday in Japan to coincide with the cherry blossom season? Here’s what you should know.
Every year, millions of international travellers fly to Japan to witness the country’s annual cherry blossom season which marks the beginning of spring.
These small, delicate, pink blossoms – known as sakura – bloom between March and May and blanket some of the most technologically-advanced cities in the world.
To ensure you don’t miss the season, check the Japanese Meteorological Agency’s televised Cherry Blossom Forecast, which tracks the Cherry Blossom Front as it sweeps across the country. Here’s a guide on how to follow the Cherry Blossom Front, starting from the southern island of Kyushu in in late-March to the northern-most island of Hokkaido in early May.
Follow the Cherry Blossom Front
The natural harbour of Nagasaki on the north-west coast of Kyushu is one of the first cities for hanami each season.
The prefecture’s most beautiful flower-viewing point is in the last place you’d expect – the ground zero of the atomic bomb blast during World War II which destroyed a significant part of the city and killed more than 10,000 residents.
Surrounded by more than 500 cherry trees, visitors to ground zero, the Peace Park and the Atomic Bomb Museum can pay their respects to the victims of the bombing and reflect on the consequences of war.
For a change of pace, take a day trip to the town of Obama (no relation to the former US president). Set against the backdrop of the flowering Unzen mountain range, Obama is home to the most active volcanic hot springs in Japan. Visitors can relax in natural spas and even steam their own eggs and vegetables in bamboo baskets over the hot springs.
Heading north to the main island of Honshu, the Cherry Blossom Front usually reaches Hiroshima in the last week of March and first week of April.
One of the most famous spots for hanami is the Hiroshima Peace Park. Both banks of the Motoyasa river, which runs through the park, are lined with thousands of delicate pale pink blossoms creating a stark contrast to the neighbouring A-Bomb Dome, one of the only surviving structures from the World War II atomic bombing.
The sakura-lined avenues of the city centre make for a pleasant afternoon stroll to Hiroshima Castle, with a stop at one of the 2000 Okonomiyaki restaurants to sample Hiroshima’s signature dish – savoury layered pancakes cooked on a teppanyaki grill and packed full of vegetables, noodles, seafood and meat.
Visit the Okonomimura building to choose from 25 tiny okonomiyaki restaurants, some seating less than 10 diners, each with their own distinctive seasonings and toppings.
While the rest of Japan has embraced modernity, the old ways are still prevalent in Japan’s former capital city.
Kyoto’s atmospheric temples, manicured traditional gardens, historic teahouses and women dressed in kimono are a stunning backdrop for sakura in full bloom from early April.
Shimbashi Street in the Gion district is easily one of the most beautiful places in Japan, especially during sakura season. Cherry trees line a flagstone street home to 17th century teahouses and restaurants, creating a picturesque canopy of blossoms. Watch the parade of gorgeous kimonos as locals gather to have their photo taken – you may even spot a geisha.
For a truly unique experience visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its snaking paths covered by thousands of vermillion torii gates, and hike surrounded by sakura to the Yotsutsuji Intersection for an unparalleled view of Kyoto city. On your way back, stop for sakura-flavoured daifuku or dango rice cakes at one of the many street vendors.
Amidst the hustle and bustle of Japan’s high-tech capital, more than 1000 cherry trees bloom in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden each April with 65 species of sakura trees ensuring the hanami season lasts up to six weeks.
The 56-hectare horticultural marvel showcases the best of Japanese traditional gardening, with koi ponds and arched bridges, lanterns, pagodas and Zen gardens.
Grab a ready-made bento box from a nearby 7 Eleven or café and join the hundreds of locals who picnic beneath the blossoms each day.
Round out the day with a short train ride to Harajuku to witness the duality of the magnificent Meiji Jingu shrine and the weird and wonderful kawaii culture of Takeshita shopping street and surrounding district.
By Sam Marsh and Jessica Wilson.
Save $200 per person on a fully guided Cherry Blossom and Garden Tour visiting Tokyo, Hakone, Mt Fuji, Kyoto, Hiroshima and more! Talk to RACQ Travel on 1300 188 713.