Cherry Blossoms In Japan – Sakura Forecast For 2020 & Where To View Them

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Every year during spring, thousands of tourists flock to Japan to view the magnificent spectacle of the nation’s cherry blossom blooming season.

Centred around the last bit of March to the first half of April, visitors can join locals in the traditional custom of hanami (cherry blossom viewing), and experience the splendour that is the ephemeral beauty of Japan’s national flower.

To aid those looking to experience this brilliant display, we will share our 2020 Cherry Blossom Forecast for the 12 most popular Japanese cities to enjoy the festivities at. Because of the effects of climate change and general deviations in year-to-year weather patterns, these estimates may change closer to the blooming season.

More than just a leisure activity, hanami holds a much more profound symbolism to the Japanese. With its significance rooted in Buddhist themes, Japanese cherry blossoms act as a metaphor for the beauty of transient mortality, juxtaposing the resplendence of the flowers to their tragically short existence.

Furthermore, as a herald for the arrival of spring and the start of the Japanese calendar year, locals view the flowering of the sakura with a hope that their new year will bloom with new possibilities as well.

2020 Sakura Forecast

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As these delicate blossoms are notoriously short-lived and prone to shifts in weather patterns, it is imperative that travellers time their visits carefully if they do not wish to miss potential viewings. From the official kaika (first blossom) date, the flowers remain on the trees for a brief couple of weeks before withering. Even more fleeting is the peak viewing period for the blossoms, which is from just before mankai (full bloom) and until the falling of the petals.

As a general note, the cherry blossom front moves northwards during the season. Thus, even if changes in weather patterns shorten blooms in certain areas, fret not, for there are still ample viewing opportunities in other parts of Japan!

2020 Sakura Forecast Fukuoka

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The largest city in the Kyushu prefecture, Fukuoka is located at the southern tip of Japan and is one of the first locations to see the blooming of cherry blossoms. A confluence of the traditional and modern, Fukuoka is a bustling metropolis that houses many serene shrines and picturesque parks.

Best Places in Fukuoka for Cherry Blossom Viewing:

  1. Fukuoka Castle (Maizuru Park) – In Maizuru Park, visitors can enjoy viewing the blooms from within the remnants of a 17th-century castle, or meander through multiple walking paths under the canopy of cherry trees and a photo-worthy tunnel of flowers.
  2. Nishi Park – Listed among the top hundred best spots for cherry blossom viewing in Japan, this hillside park provides a panoramic view of Hakata Bay framed by a sea of pale-pink flowering sakura trees.
  3. Uminonakamichi Seaside Park – Located on a narrow peninsula across the bay from central Fukuoka, Uminonakamichi contains around two thousand cherry trees, and houses multiple flower parks as well. While the spaciousness of the park can provide visitors with a more reticent viewing experience, it is recommended to get a rental bike to make travelling around more convenient.

Estimated Blooming Start Date: 21st March
Estimated Peak Viewing Period: 29th March – 8th April

2020 Sakura Forecast Fukushima

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A lesser-known vacation spot, Fukushima is an ideal location for those looking for a nature-themed escape away from the masses of Japan’s more populous cities. Travellers can expect beautiful volcanic landscapes and hot springs, and for those looking to exit the main city, quaint castle towns and charming ski-resorts.

Best Places in Fukushima for Cherry Blossom Viewing:

  1. Hanamiyama Park – Literally named the “flower-viewing mountain”, the park is one of the best places to view cherry blossoms at. Visitors can amble along the walking paths to admire the sakura-blanketed slopes in the south, or head to the viewpoint at the top for a bird’s-eye view of Fukushima and the Azuma Mountains.
  2. Natsui River Senbonzakura – As per its namesake, this river is lined by a thousand elegant cherry trees on both sides. For a more immerse experience, visitors can meander along the banks to take in the scenic views of the area’s waterfalls and clear streams under the cover of sakura.
  3. Shinobuyama Park – For those who prefer a more elevated viewing experience, this park includes Fukushima’s iconic Mt. Shinobu. Visitors can scale the forested hill where the cherry trees sit atop, and rest in the observation decks that overlook the city beneath.

Estimated Blooming Start Date: 5th April
Estimated Peak Viewing Period: 8th April – 16th April

2020 Sakura Forecast Hokkaido

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At the northern tip of Japan sits the island of Hokkaido. Famed for its untouched nature spots and variety of outdoor activities, the cooler months tend to be the region’s peak travel period. When the harsh winter abates, Hokkaido is a top tourist destination for another reason: it is the final frontier for cherry blossom seekers still hoping to catch the blooms in person.

Best Places in Hokkaido for Cherry Blossom Viewing:

  1. Fort Goryokaku – Constructed at the end of the Edo-period, Fort Goryokaku is a star-shaped citadel-turned-park that many consider one of the best cherry blossom spots in Hokkaido. The cherry trees here hug the fort’s moats, creating a striking contrast between the fragile elegance of the flowers against the cold stones of the fortress.
  2. Maruyama Park and Hokkaido Shrine – A popular spot for hanami parties, viewers can be found leisurely reclining on their picnic mats while sampling sakura-themed treats. For those who prefer to keep on the move, the alternative is to take a peaceful stroll along the cherry trees-lined approach to the shrine.
  3. Moerenuma Park – Visitors can enjoy viewing some of the nation’s slowest blooms away from stifling crowds in the sizable Moerenuma Park. Within the park is a space called the “Cherry Blossom Forest”, where there is a grove containing an impressive 2,600 cherry trees!

Estimated Blooming Start Date: 2nd May
Estimated Peak Viewing Period: 6th May – 12th May

2020 Sakura Forecast Hiroshima

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An often-overlooked travel destination, Hiroshima may not be at the top of many travellers’ holiday lists. Besides housing multiple reconstructed Edo-era historical sites, the city revels yearly in springtime related festivities, including the Hiroshima Flower Festival, and is primed with multiple famed hanami party spots.

Best Places in Hiroshima for Cherry Blossom Viewing:

  1. Hiroshima Castle – The reconstructed castle and its grounds sit in the middle of Hiroshima, and contains around 450 cherry trees. Unlike other cities, visitors can head into the castle keep and find a spot to admire both the historical landmark and the modern city against a fluttering backdrop of cherry blossoms.
  2. Hiroshima Peace Park – A sombre reminder of a darker past, the peace park has transformed over the years into a beacon of hope for the city’s inhabitants. Visitors and locals alike can sit along both banks of the Motyasu River to enjoy a serene viewing of the cherry trees.
  3. Shukkeien Garden – Visitors looking to view the blossoms in a less hectic environment can consider popping by Shukkeien to enjoy a calm viewing of the sakura against the manicured backdrop of a Japanese landscape garden.

Estimated Blooming Start Date: 22nd March
Estimated Peak Viewing Period: 3rd April – 12th April

2020 Sakura Forecast Kanazawa

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For holiday-goers looking to experience pre-Meiji Japan, Kanazawa is a hidden gem of a city with an intricate feudal history. Tourists can visit multiple museums that detail the area’s rich feudal past, wander through preserved historical towns and districts, before relaxing at one of Japan’s top three gardens – Kenrokuen Garden.

Best Places in Kanazawa for Cherry Blossom Viewing:

  1. Kanazawa Castle – With the towering castle as the backdrop for the wispy cherry blossoms in bloom, visitors are transported to a time before modernity as they wander around the compound or enjoy a hanami party along the castle’s walls. For the best viewing spot, head to the grounds near the Gyokuseninmaru Garden by the inner moat for an area filled with cherry trees.
  2. Kenrokuen Garden – Also known as the “six attributes garden” after a Chinese text that describes the six factors that make up a perfect garden, Kenrokuen is exquisite on the average day but becomes truly spectacular during the cherry blossom season.

Estimated Blooming Start Date: 1st April
Estimated Peak Viewing Period: 6th April – 12th April

2020 Sakura Forecast Kobe

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The first thing that comes to mind when we think of Kobe is Kobe beef from the region’s iconic black cattle. Beyond the decadent treat, the city offers other unique attractions such as a vast collection of famous onsen spots, and lively geiko performances.

Best Places in Kobe for Cherry Blossom Viewing:

  1. Shukugawa Park – One of the best spots for sakura viewing in the Kansai region, Shukugawa Park is quiet riverside park housing 1,700 cherry trees. The crowd descends mainly during the April season, so be warned: go early in the day if you wish to get a good spot for the city’s Sakura Matsuri festival!
  2. Okamoto Minami Park – Maintained by the Kobe city government, the park is built on the land of famed cherry tree collector and conservator, Shintaro Sasabe. The area holds 30 cherry trees of 10 varieties, and while the space is limited, visitors who make the trip are rewarded with a more intimate viewing experience where they can not just admire, but learn about the different cherry trees as well.

Estimated Blooming Start Date: 27th March
Estimated Peak Viewing Period: 6th April – 11th April

2020 Sakura Forecast Kyoto

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A modern city with an old soul, visitors can find a multitude of historical temples, traditional teahouses, and well-kept traditional gardens amidst modern buildings. This convergence of old and new is indicative of the city’s illustrious history: serving as the country’s capital for over a millennium, the city has seen multiple cycles of destruction and rebuilding.

Best Places in Kyoto for Cherry Blossom Viewing:

  1. Heian Shrine – Home to a large collection of the later blooming weeping cherry trees, the garden of the Heian Shrine is the destination of many visitors who missed the initial viewing. With a more subdued atmosphere courtesy of the shrine and lake, this spot makes for a tranquil and pleasant viewing experience.
  2. Maruyama Park – The favourite spot for those in Kyoto to enjoy hanami, the Maruyama Park is a Japanese garden with multiple open-air teahouses prime for appreciating the surrounding cherry blossoms. The main attraction of the park during sakura season is the Gion weeping cherry tree: standing tall among the other variants, it has an especially dramatic presence when illuminated after dark.
  3. Philosopher’s Path – One of the most popular spots to view cherry blossoms at, this half-hour walking trail has many photo opportunities for visitors who follow its trees-lined canal. During blooming season, the trail is enveloped by a sakura tunnel of white and pink, with the occasional cascade of petals creating an almost Ghibli-like fairy tale ambience.

Estimated Blooming Start Date: 27th March
Estimated Peak Viewing Period: 5th April – 10th April

2020 Sakura Forecast Nagoya

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Often overlooked in favour of its two more famous cousins of Tokyo and Osaka, Nagoya is more than just a manufacturing hub – the city has its fair share of historical sites and museums too. Fans of Japan’s samurai and ninja culture can find sites pertaining to these groups’ histories here as well.

Best Places in Nagoya for Cherry Blossom Viewing:

  1. Yamazakigawa Riverside – Along the Yamazaki River is the Shikinomichi, or the “Path of Four Seasons”, also known as one of Japan’s best sakura viewing spots. For nearly a kilometre along its length, visitors can embark on a casual stroll under the shade of the hundreds of cherry trees that border the river.
  2. Nagoya Castle – What makes Nagoya Castle stand out as a viewing spot is the presence of lesser-known varieties of cherry trees in the complex. Visitors looking for a place to hold hanami parties at can do so in the park and around the moats that encircle the castle.

Estimated Blooming Start Date: 22nd March
Estimated Peak Viewing Period: 4th April – 13th April

2020 Sakura Forecast Nara

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More than just a city with herds of deer, Nara holds an important historical significance for Japan as the country’s first permanent capital established. Due to its rich Buddhist tradition, the city is scattered with some of Japan’s oldest temples and shrines.

Best Places in Nara for Cherry Blossom Viewing:

  1. Mt. Yoshino – A home to over 30,000 trees of 200 varieties, Mt. Yoshino is a sight to behold for visitors. During sakura season, the slopes are coloured in various shades of pink, and women in colourful kimonos are a common sight during peak bloom.
  2. Nara Park – A large park in central Nara, this location is not just famed for its free-roaming deer but is also the site of over 1,700 cherry trees. For the best viewing experience, we suggest heading southeast of Todaiji’s main hall to the large lawn encircled by cherry trees.

Estimated Blooming Start Date: 29th March
Estimated Peak Viewing Period: 5th April – 10th April

2020 Sakura Forecast Osaka

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Osaka is Japan’s second-largest metropolis, and historically, the city has been an economic powerhouse of the Kansai region. Besides its financial prowess, the city is also known as the “Nation’s Kitchen” — food lovers from all over flock to the city to sample classics such as takoyaki and okonomiyaki at Osaka’s most prominent food district: Dotonbori.

Best Places in Osaka for Cherry Blossom Viewing:

  1. Kema Sakuranomiya Park – For visitors looking for a waterfront view of the city’s cherry blossoms, Kema Sakuranomiya Park is perfect with its astounding 4,5000 cherry trees padding the river’s shorelines. Whether viewing from a ship cruising along the river or from the riverside promenade, the sheer length of cherry trees makes this an unparalleled spot for hanami.
  2. Osaka Castle – With over 4,000 cherry trees as well, Osaka Castle is a choice spot for picnickers looking to dine under the canopy of sakura. The spacious lawns of the complex’s Nishinomaru Park provide visitors with an unobstructed view of the castle tower, and the location is a favourite for yozakura (night blossom viewing) in the evening too.
  3. Osaka Mint Bureau – Open to the general public for only a week in mid-April, the garden of the city’s mint bureau is an exclusive event that sets apart a typical traveller’s hanami experience. With over a hundred varieties of cherry trees, visitors are able to view the rarer varieties of cherry trees without travelling across the country.

Estimated Blooming Start Date: 27th March
Estimated Peak Viewing Period: 4th April – 10th April

2020 Sakura Forecast Shizuoka

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Most famous for being the home of Mount Fuji, Shizuoka is the perfect retreat for those looking to escape the hectic lifestyle of the bigger cities around it. The region bisects the two contrasting landscapes that make up Japan: along one border is the lush verdant stretch of forests and Mount Fuji, while the other boundary plays host to a collection of scenic beaches.

Best Places in Shizuoka for Cherry Blossom Viewing:

  1. Kawazu Zakura – Located along the Kawazu River, over a million people flock to this small town during blooming season to celebrate the flower festival. Unlike the more petite and muted somei yoshino variety, Kawazu cherry trees are characterised by their large and vibrant pink flowers.
  2. Mount Fuji – The most famous peak in Japan, more adventurous travellers can head to the mountain’s multiple landmarks for an unparalleled viewing of the cherry trees in bloom. For visitors who wish to capture the stately Mount Fuji silhouetted against the graceful blooms of sakura, the best spot to do so is by the Chureito Pagoda.

Estimated Blooming Start Date: 3rd April
Estimated Peak Viewing Period: 11th April – 19th April

2020 Sakura Forecast Tokyo

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One of the most popular travel destinations in the world, the ultra-modern capital of Japan needs little introduction. Whether you are looking for an immersive cultural experience, the latest tech innovations, a glitzy shopping trip, or to indulge in the delicacies of Japanese cuisine, Tokyo has it all.

You should also check out this guide on the various hanami spots in Tokyo.

Best Places in Tokyo for Cherry Blossom Viewing:

  1. Shinjuku Gyoen – Nestled in one of the hippest neighbourhoods of Tokyo, Shinjuku Gyoen is not only the home to over a thousand cherry trees, but houses multiple themed gardens too. Despite its prime location, because of its extensive size, the crowd feels a less stifling even during peak blooming season.
  2. Ueno Park – Ueno Park is one of the country’s favourite sites for cherry blossom viewing as evident from the endless stream of locals and tourists alike descending upon its doorstep during sakura viewing season. As photogenic as the captivating sakura-lined paths are, the intense crowd can impede one’s ideal hanami experience.
  3. Chidorigafuchi – One of the city’s most scenic hanami spots, visitors can choose to not only picnic along the banks of the moat but enjoy a romantic boat ride through the tunnel of sakura too. During the equally popular night viewings, the flowers are even more splendid against the calm waters and spring sky.

Estimated Blooming Start Date: 21st March
Estimated Peak Viewing Period: 28th March – 10th April

Note: The above dates are an approximation based on the past five years’ cherry blossoms periods. It is hard to predict the exact days as weather forecasts are ever-changing. It is, however, important to book your air tickets and accommodation months in advance to avoid exorbitant peak period prices and to secure your necessary rooms and hotel stays.

Read: 8 Sakura Foods You Must Try During The Cherry Blossoms Period