As Japan’s unofficial national flower, sakura (cherry blossoms) are held in pride of place. Its national rugby team is even known as ‘The Cherry Blossoms’! Sakura season is a gorgeous time of year for locals and travellers alike, celebrated with food, songs, dancing and get togethers. Here’s a quick rundown on all that you need to know about sakura season in Japan.  

It is a centuries-old tradition  

Cherry blossoms
Photo by Sora Sagano on Unsplash

Sakura trees have been rooted (literally!) in Japanese history since the 8th century. From there began the tradition of hanami. ‘Hana’ translates to flowers and ‘mi’ translates to watching or viewing, and this term is specifically for sakura trees. Flower viewing parties were originally limited to aristocrats however this tradition extended to the public in the 17th century.  

Time of year 

Cherry blossoms at Osaka Castle
Photo by hiromitravel on Instagram

While sakura season is very much reliant on Mother Nature, it typically runs from late March to early/mid-May. There is a specific sakura zensen, or blossom forecast, that you can follow for up-to-date predictions and news of the latest blooms. Sakura trees start to bloom from the south and the country is showered in pink blossoms going north. Okinawa – a subtropical island in the south – can even report its first blossoms in mid-January! For the best viewing opportunities, we recommend heading to your nearest castle grounds and/or park. Sakura trees are often plentiful in these green areas.  

It marks the start of spring 

Buddha statue
Photo by Pieter on Unsplash

The start of a new season has never held so much significance as spring does in Japan. Spring welcomes in a joyous time of optimism and the start of something new. In Shinto religion (‘the way of the gods’, Japan’s inherent belief system), sakura blossoms are said to hold sacred spirits and forces. The short lifetime of the blossoms is also a reminder that nature and life is only fleeting.  

How is it celebrated? 

Bento box
Photo by vanilla_infinite on Instagram

Sakura season celebrations spread across the country when the delicate flowers are in full bloom. You may find yourself at a vibrant performance featuring live music and dancers. Special tea ceremonies are held, complete with black or green tea that has been blended with sakura and served in tea ware decorated with sakura. Or seek out all the sakura-themed snacks for a hanami picnic – think pink onigiri and mochi, special hanami bento boxes, and even Starbucks’ annual sakura-themed drink! 

Globus and Cosmos offer several departures from March – May in Japan, timed with prime sakura season. Find out more today! 

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