It’s cherry blossom season in Japan, known locally as Hanami (which means cherry blossom viewing), and if you’re travelling to Japan in May and are worried you might miss this incredible natural show, we’ve got tips on where to go so you don’t miss out.
When does the Japan cherry blossom season start?
The cherry blossom season in Japan can start as early as January in the southernmost tip of the country, and finishes usually at the end of May, when summer is well on its way.
How long does the cherry blossom season in each region of Japan last?
Not long. A lot of people think that the cherry blossoms when they are in full bloom might last weeks, but it’s more like days. They can come and go very quickly, so if you’re staying in one spot, we recommend staying there for at least a week.
Can I still see cherry blossoms in Japan in May?
Yes! However, the key for seeing the Japan cherry blossom season in May is to go north.
The further north you go, the more chance you have of catching the season before it is over. Hokkaido, and its beautiful mountainous cities provide an ideal backdrop for late cherry blossom viewing.
Plus, visiting in May means far less crowds, as the peak season for cherry blossom touring is usually mid-March to mid-April. So if you time it right, you’ll be strolling beneath a delicate rain of pink and white petals without being jostled by hundreds of people.
So where in Hokkaido can I see cherry blossoms?
Sapporo is Hokkaido’s largest city and its capital. Usually Sapporo is known as a winter destination thanks to its winter festivals and ski resorts nearby, but this city is stunning in spring. In terms of sightseeing, you must visit the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, the famed Clock Tower, and tour the legendary Sapporo Beer Museum.
For cherry blossom viewing, stroll through Asahiyama Park, go to Odori Park, and then scale the Sapporo TV Tower to see the whole city in bloom!
Best Japan cherry blossom season spot for: local culture
Noboribetsu is an onsen town located in southwestern Hokkaido, and here you can experience two hallowed Japanese experiences at the same time. This town is set on a series of hot springs, and so you can book into a ryokan, and lay back in a steaming onsen bath, and see the cherry blossoms float in the air around you.
One of the major bonuses of this location too, is that the driving route to Noboribetsu Onsen is planted with thousands of cherry trees, and for 8km, you will be treated to one of the prettiest drives in Japan. As for other attractions, we highly recommend hiking in Jigokudani (Hell Valley) and making time for Date Jidaimura Noboribetsu – a theme park showcasing ancient Edo-period customs and traditions.
Best Japan cherry blossom season spot for: hot springs and flowers
If you’re not getting to Japan til mid-May Nemuro is for you – set right at the top of Hokkaido, this is the last spot where the cherry blossoms bloom until they blow out for another year. The best place to see the blossoms in this town is at the atmospheric Seiryuji Temple.
This lovely temple is surrounded by cherry trees that are over 100 years old, and this is a historic spot for waving away the season. Other attractions in this part of the country include spotting Steller’s Sea Eagles and Japanese red foxes at Lake Furen or at Shunkunitai wild bird sanctuary, as well as eating the famous (and amazing) local sushi, or going to the gorgeous Cape Ochiishi for a chance at spying deer and sea otters.
Best Japan cherry blossom season spot for: late bloomers and wildlife enthusiasts.
Hakodate is one of the best places in the whole of Hokkaido to see cherry blossoms, thanks in no small part to its stunning Goryokaku Park. This is a star-shaped park that encircles Fort Goryokaku, a European-style fortress from the 1860s, and the park is home to over one thousand cherry blossom trees.
There are also some fantastic viewing spots to see the whole city and its blossoms, such as the Goryokaku Tower (right next to the park), and the more lofty Mount Hakodate, that gives you panoramic views of the whole peninsula Hakodate rests on.
Best Japan cherry blossom season spot for: lofty views
Close to Hakodate is Matsumae, which is home to the only traditional castle structure in Hokkaido. Dating back to 1603, this magical castle is set in Matsuemae Park, which is also home to Buddhist temples, and a staggering 10,000 cherry trees of over 250 varieties.
This is such a popular spot in the area for seeing the cherry blossoms, that there are stalls and often live events. You can also go to the nearby Matsumaehan Yashiki, which imagines Matusumae as it was in the Edo period, offering historical costume rentals, so you can experience (or at least see people experience) what life was like in 17th century Japan.
Best Japan cherry blossom season spot for: history