Thinking of visiting Japan? If you’re lucky enough to travel during cherry blossom season, you’re in for a beautiful treat. Every year, typically between February and May, trees bloom throughout the country to create a magnificent sea of pink. Historically, cherry blossoms were important to Japan as they signified the rice-planting season. Now, they are celebrated for their temporal beauty with a Cherry Blossom Festival every year.
Hanami, also known as the “Cherry Blossom Festival,” is a long-standing Japanese custom celebrating the transitioning beauty of nature and spring. When the cherry blossoms bloom, tradition is that everyone, tourists and locals alike, head to local parks and gardens to celebrate with food and drinks. The entire country goes through somewhat of a picnic party, where everyone joins together to appreciate the beauty of Sakura (cherry blossoms).
This time of year is the most popular tourist season in Japan — not only because of the breathtaking pink world that emerges, but also because of the temperate spring weather transitioning between the frigid winter and humid summer. However, the festival varies by location and year because blooming times are weather and climate dependent. A warmer winter may lead to earlier blossoms, and there is only a small window of opportunity to see them. Once the flowers bloom, they only stick around for about a week or two before falling. The cherry blossoms typically begin in Okinawa in February, spread up to mid-Japan in March or April, and finish up north in Hokkaido in May.
If you get the chance to visit Japan during the Cherry Blossom Festival, be aware that the times can vary — and plan your trip accordingly. Once you reach your destination city (Tokyo is a great start), find a park, riverbank, or garden lined with trees, pack your food and drinks, and head on down to celebrate the magical pink world of cherry blossoms.