The cherry blossom season in Japan is all the rage everyone can talk about right now. With budget airlines like Cebu Pacific (and rumouring to welcome direct flights soon, Air Asia), traveling to the land of the rising sun has never been more accessible. Sure, witnessing the blossoming of these beloved flowers – called hanami or “flower viewing” by the locals – is an experience worth having. However, there are still things you need to know to help you prepare on what to really expect.
*Disclaimer: These tips are based on personal experience plus a bit of research; hence, may vary per traveler*
1. It’s all about timing.
The cherry blossom season differs per area or region you’re going to. For example, the sakura flowers in Tokyo may bloom in the first week of April, while Osaka has theirs mid-week or at even the end of the month. At the same time, last year’s dates may not be exactly the same as this year’s or the next (global warming, perhaps?). Don’t forget change is the only thing constant here. So, knowing all these should imply that you really need to watch out on your travel dates’ forecasts before booking that flight, and also plan the cities you’ll be visiting in order to maximize the full bloom. The good news is, there are tons of sites out there that release forecasts a few months prior.
2. Rain, rain, go away!
Instagram nowadays has us all fooled with the perfect shot, bright lighting, and vibrant colors – making us forget that reality doesn’t always look that way. My mom and I visited Tokyo in April, eager to see the famous sakura trees with nothing but high expectations. Little did we know that our trip was composed of about 60% rain. It is a time of transitioning from winter to spring, after all. Seeing my feed with everyone’s eye-catching photos made me wonder why mine didn’t look as good as theirs. One reason perhaps is that we went a little too early as opposed to going mid-April to early May when the seasons have started to “adjust” and welcome more sun. Still, it’s best to know that you should expect light showers of rain.
3. Three (or even a hundred) is a crowd.
Because of its massive popularity, another thing to expect is the hundreds of people both locals and tourists wanting to get that same view AND shot as you. Can’t blame everyone! Better brace yourself for overcrowded parks and train stations. I suggest you plan your trip really well such as visiting famous tourist spots like Ueno Park to get great portrait sessions sans the people.
4. Festivals everywhere!
Celebrations include dozens of food stalls and trucks lined up, live music, and tons of blue mats that Japanese use for picnics – a picture perfect day!
5. Book your flights and accommodations well in advance.
During these months, it’s already considered to be a peak season. If you want to save money, book your flights and accommodations well in advance as everything will be gone in a snap! (Click here to get PhP 1,100 off or ~USD 20 on your first Airbnb booking). I would say a maximum of 6 months prior to the trip could be the best time to look for stays. For reference, here’s where I stayed at in Tokyo from Apr 1-6 and here in Osaka from Apr 6-9.
6. No picking, please!
Respect for nature, guys. The beauty of the sakura flower will definitely tempt you to grab and stash them in your purse. But please, don’t. ALSO, never try to shake the trees for the flowers to fall too! They grow for a limited amount of time throughout the year and as decent travelers I know you are, always leave nothing but footprints and photos 🙂
Have you been to Japan during this time? Share your comments, experiences, and new learnings too below! Pin It too!