Keep reading to learn all about Japan’s most famous festival.
Japan marks the beginning of spring with cherry blossom festivals throughout the island nation. From Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south, these festivals are an important part of Japanese culture that date back centuries. If you’re planning a trip to Japan, remember that the cherry blossoms don’t bloom on a specific date. Depending on the part of Japan you visit, they could bloom anytime between March and April. However, as spring approaches, you can check the cherry blossom forecasts to get an idea of the best viewing times. Keep reading to learn all about Japan’s most famous festival.
What is hanami
Hanami is the highlight of spring in most parts of Japan. Hanami means “flower viewing” and refers to the Japanese tradition of gathering under blossoming trees to observe, admire, and enjoy their beauty. Visitors often take in the cherry blossoms with a sense of awe. The care that goes into the cherry blossom festivals throughout the country is a testament to Japanese perfection and a commitment to making sure everything goes as planned.
You may be wondering exactly how to go about participating in hanami. If you’re traveling to Japan for the festival, you could join a group of tourists for a cherry blossom viewing tour or set out on your own to explore the cherry blossoms in full bloom.
Japanese people traditionally come together with friends or family at night and drink under the stunning pink trees while others throw a hanami party with food and drinks. Although hanami is a spring activity, temperatures drop across Japan at night, so be sure to dress warmly if you’re taking part.
Where to view cherry blossoms
If you’re visiting Tokyo in cherry blossom season, Yoyogi and Ueno parks are excellent places to enjoy the annual festival. You should expect crowds, so it’s a good idea to send someone to reserve a spot early in the day.
You’ll want to bring some entertainment along if you’re the person who will save the spot for the rest of your viewing party. While the cherry blossoms are beautiful you’ll often have to wait all day for your group to join you. If you like to play games, your phone or your tablet can be a great choice to entertain yourself with titles such as poker, chess or even backgammon until nightfall when the hanami gets started. Before you relax under the trees, be sure you find the right location. It’s easy to get a good location if you know what to look for:
- Avoid sitting next to walkways and sidewalks, especially if you plan to go to one of the famous parks such as Ueno or Yoyogi. The crowds are often massive, so it’s best to find a quiet spot in the interior of a park.
- Keep an eye out for trash cans and avoid sitting next to them. Since so many people attend these festivals, trash cans fill up quickly, and the smell often becomes intolerable throughout the day.
- If you need to go to the bathroom, you may have to wait an hour or more. So, be sure to get in line early.
How long do cherry blossoms last
Plan your hanami outing as soon as the cherry blossoms begin to bloom in your area because they won’t last long. The average lifespan for most varieties of cherry blossoms is only about a week. The nice thing about Japan is that each region has a unique climate, so you can follow the blossoms from one place to the next as they bloom throughout the country.
Pay attention to the cherry blossom forecast to know when and where they’re expected to bloom. If you do this, you could enjoy hanami for up to four weeks. Following the cherry blossoms is also a great way to see more of this beautiful country.
Famous places to view cherry blossoms
If you want to explore hanami outside of Tokyo or plan to follow the cherry blossom throughout Japan, here are a few more places worth visiting.
- Hirosaki Castle in Saitama Prefecture
- Takada Castle in Niigata Prefecture
- Hirosaki Castle in Aomori Prefecture
- Odawara City in Kanagawa Prefecture
Cherry blossoms around the world
Although Japan hosts the biggest and most famous cherry blossom festivals globally, several other countries have smaller celebrations in the spring. China, Taiwan, and Korea also have annual cherry blossom festivals. However, they don’t celebrate the season on the same scale as the Japanese. There are also festivals across Europe and the United States. Washington, DC, is home to the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, one of the biggest outside of Japan.