Tourism was affected quite badly by the pandemic. But with vaccines rolling out and countries reopening, you can expect tourism to slowly start livening up again. And when you do travel again, you should consider the Land of the Rising Sun — Japan.
Yahoo Finance’s list of most visited countries in the world lists Japan as number 11. It reports the country as having seen 32.2 million tourists in 2019. After all, aside from being a prominent center for business, ExpatBets’s guide to Japan shows there’s something for every tourist throughout the year as well. You can have a traditional experience in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), where you can bathe in natural hot springs and wear a yukata. In the winter, there are opportunities to go skiing and snowboarding in Hokkaido. But when talking about spring, what you’d probably think of first is the traditional custom of hanami or sakura (cherry blossom) viewing.
If hanami is part of your bucket list for your trip to Japan, below are a few pointers to help you enjoy the experience.
When do the sakura bloom?
Cherry blossoms actually don’t bloom at the same time across the country. In fact, a huge factor in expecting their timing is the geographical location — typically, the milder the climate, the earlier the sakura bloom. So on Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost island, cherry blossoms can open as early as January. Meanwhile, on Hokkaido, the northernmost island, they can bloom as late as May. For most major cities in the middle, cherry blossom season is usually late March or early April. It can be difficult to pinpoint on your own when the sakura will start blooming. Fortunately, weather services and media closely follow the “cherry blossom front” and release forecasts about when you can likely expect the flowers to bloom.
What are the good spots to view the sakura?
There won’t be a shortage of good spots with sakura being found in at least a thousand spots throughout Japan. In Kyoto, some of the most popular spots include the Kyoto Botanical Garden, the Philosopher’s Path, and Maruyama Park. There are also a number of great spots in the country’s capital, Tokyo. Live Japan’s article on sakura spots in Tokyo includes Chidorigafuchi, which is one of the most scenic spots for hanami — you can take photos of the sakura with the stone walls of the Edo Castle in the background. You can also rent a boat to snap shots of the blossoms up close. There’s also a 700m-long footpath, which is also known as the “sakura tunnel.” This is especially beautiful when the blossoms are illuminated with colored lights from below.
What should I bring when viewing the sakura?
Whether you plan to go cherry blossom viewing again someday, or you’re treating it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it’s important to make the best of it. Our “Sakura season has arrived! How do the Japanese enjoy it?” write-up discusses a few tips. For one, because hanami is very popular to tourists, and a traditional custom to locals, many people will surely come. As such, you should secure the best spot. You can do so by reserving a spot by spreading picnic sheets at your chosen place. Of course, since it’s a picnic, you should bring food and drinks. Bring a blanket or warm clothes as well since spring still sees cold days, especially in the evening.
Hanami can feel like a magical experience, especially if you catch the best timing and spot. And to do so, keep an eye on the forecasts, ready your picnic packs, and arrive early at your chosen