Your Best Japan Sakura season starts early and takes planning. As soon as it becomes New Year stores were already out with sakura motifs. It feels like Japan is half momiji season and half sakura season. Winter and summer and just in the way.
And it’s coming soon. March 26th by some estimates. So without further ado here are my tips to make this season or your visit your best Japan sakura season!
Franceslovesyou in Inokashira Park for sakura
Understand any top rated sakura spot will be packed
Was this photo from a top rated spot? Nope!
If japan-guide or hanamiwalker or any other place has given it top rating, it will be super packed. Tokyo is overcrowded on a daily basis. Tokyo is absolutely unbearable for sakura season. Osaka and Kyoto are the same.
Tourism is one of the major industries of Japan. It’s incredibly cheap to get there from Korea and China and considered a once-in-a-lifetime trip for some to see the sakura.
You’re going to have to accept if you follow the guides online about sakura, you will be flooded. Especially on the weekend. Peak sakura season on a weekend is tragic. It’s also very drunk.
Appreciate the nearby sakura
One of my favorite parts of sakura season is actually enjoying the neighborhood sakura. Most schoolyards have a giant sakura tree. Some parks cement and all have a glowing pink tree. It’s still beautiful. It’s not a sea of pink, but appreciate beauty where you can find it.
Take all the walks around your nearby hotel or air bnb. It’s free and it’s a great way to not feel suffocated by people.
This was just a random bridge in Nakano in Tokyo. It didn’t cost anything, I didn’t have to be around a lot of people to get this shot. Daily life sakura is really enjoyable.
Same bridge, just different angle. By the way, the other previous photos except for Frances were ALL taken on a basic pedestrian bridge in Nakano.
Be willing to travel
Sakura are fickle and weak. You can follow every sakura forecast. You can book at the last minute. But one heavy rain and they’re wiped out. Seriously all it takes is a good rain if the blossoms are open enough. Hanamiwalker is excellent at keeping reports up to date. However in English only Japan-Guide is slow but easy to read.
But one of the good things about being in Tokyo or Osaka is there are a lot of elevations and places around that are two hours or less on train. Even if you got your full season (usually only a week) in Tokyo or Osaka you can take a quick train ride and still see more.
From Tokyo my top three quick trip destinations for more sakura are:
- Matsumoto with Matsumoto Castle and walking area.
- Sendai sakura at Tsutsujigaoka Park
- Fukushima sakura (post upcoming)
From Kyoto my top four quick trip destinations for more sakura are:
- Takeda Castle near Himeji
- Himeji Castle
- Tottori cherry blossom walk around the Fukuro River
- Okayama sakura with Okayama Handayama Botanical Park blossoms
Pick river walks over parks
Parks trap people. Parks cost. Parks get all the love. But in all honesty river sakura are the best. Even if it’s crowded there there’s river space that makes you breathe a little. Also it’s easy to cut out people from a river photograph for more insta-worthy shots. Or include people for atmosphere like the Franceslovesyou photo.
This is Yasukuni Shrine for their Sakura Matsuri. Sure this is a realistic photo but not aesthetics.
This is the Chidorigafuchi Walking Path right next door to Yasukuni Shrine.
Such giant sakura, such impact. Even on a cloudy day.
In reality this is how it looked. But because it was a river walk you can take so many pleasing photos no matter the time of day.
I will do a post soon on top sakura walks in Tokyo, but just meander around your area, too!
Go early or stay for light ups
We all know what ruins an experience or a good photo: other people. So the best plan is to wake up and go early to wherever the top ranked viewing places are. There will still be other people, particularly old men with giant cameras. But you’ll get that perfect shot.
Or go at night, there will be a lot of people because light ups are popular. It’s impossible to avoid crowds at light-ups but it doesn’t feel so crowded. And your photos will be fine because darkness shadows out people. Light-ups also use pink light so no matter the blossom color you’ll always get a lovely pink glow. (Seen in my Himeji Castle sakura light up)
This photo was taken at the Roppongi Hills sakura light up
My recommended daily best Japan sakura season plan:
Morning – Head to one of the big popular spots that’s gotten the big stars or says its in full bloom via sakura-walker.
Afternoon – Choose your sakura walking stroll and then eat lots of sakura themed food.
Nighttime – After a lovely dinner finished off with sakura themed desserts. Head to one of the light-ups.
This is my side screw sakura tip: the cheapest, fewest people time to go to Okinawa is mainland sakura season. I did it through discount airlines Air Asia and Peach. I think my flight total was $200. We actually did a snorkeling boat tour that ended up being a private tour and it was only 1,000 yen a person. $10 for a private boat tour. The water is colder but it’s tolerable. I actually flew back into Osaka and got to see some sakura despite leaving for a second.
Absolutely none of these photos cost me any money to take. I guess I could also name this best japan sakura season planning for FREE!