The cherry blossom (sakura, さくら) season is upon us once again here in Japan! As one of the most beloved times of the year, Japanese people do not take the sakura season lightly. In this post, we’ll explain exactly what sakura are, how to enjoy them, and when and where to be to make the most of the sakura season! Let’s enjoy the cherry blossoms in Japan together!
Cherry blossoms surrounding the moat at Chidorigafuchi Park (Credit)
What are sakura (cherry blossoms)?
Sakura are Japanese cherry blossoms and native to East Asia. The sakura is even considered the national flower of Japan! There are over 20 different subspecies of sakura in Japan that range in different shades of pink from basically white to almost hot pink.
The most common type of sakura in Japan is sōmei-yoshino (染井吉野). Named after the town in the Edo period where they were cultivated, somei-yoshino sakura are 5-petaled and only have the slightest hint of pink, making them look almost white.
Yamazakura (山桜) are mountainous cherry blossoms that are found in the Honshu and Kyushu regions of Japan. Like sōmei-yoshino, they have five petals and have a pale pink hue.
The difference between the two types of cherry blossoms is that the leaves on sōmei-yoshino sakura trees don’t emerge until after the peak bloom while leaves on yamazakura sakura trees will grow simultaneously with the flowers.
When will the sakura bloom this year?
Geographic map of sakura forecast (Credit)
According to the annual sakura forecast by Weathernews Inc., the first sakura of the year is expected to bloom starting around March 20th in Tokyo, south of Tokyo in Kanagawa prefecture, and in areas in southern Japan such as Kochi and Saga prefectures. Over the last week of March to the first week of April, sakura all over southern Japan including Kyoto and Osaka will begin to bloom. Meanwhile, sakura in the northern Tohoku area in prefectures like Niigata and Iwate will not bloom until mid-April. The last sakura of the year is expected to bloom in Hokkaido starting as late as the first week of May.
Here are some more specific forecasts in some of Japan’s major cities according to the Japan Meteorological Corporation. Where will you be enjoying the cherry blossoms in Japan?
|City||Expected Flowering (Approximately)||Expected Full Bloom (Approximately)|
How do people enjoy the cherry blossoms in Japan?
Every year, Japanese people all over Japan do cherry blossom viewing (hanami, 花見) under the sakura. Some of the most popular hanami spots in Tokyo are the Meguro River, Chidorigafuchi Park, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Ueno Park, and more. Common hanami activities include picnicking, playing outdoor games, taking pictures, and simply appreciating the beauty of the sakura.
Japanese people enjoying hanami in Tokyo (Credit)
For more information on how to have the best hanami experience safely, check out How to Hanami Safely: Top Tips to Have the Best Sakura Picnic.