As the 2016 Japan cherry blossoms season approaches, sakura enthusiasts are busy predicting the moment of impact. With warmer than average temperatures this March, the word on the street is that the buds are expected to bloom earlier than usual. The Japan Weather Association reveals predictions that the Tokyo buds will begin to blossom on March 22, and March 23 will see Kyoto getting it’s share of the fame, earlier than average. For visitors to the north, late April to early May is the golden time, slightly earlier than usually recorded whilst the southern island of Kyushu looks like it’ll be lagging behind the usual launch date.

Region of JapanExpected Cherry Blossom OpeningExpected Full Bloom DateExpected Best Viewing Dates
TokyoMar 21Mar 28Mar 28 - Apr 5
Fuji (Shizuoka)Mar 24Apr 1Mar 30 - Apr 7
OsakaMar 25Apr 2Mar 31 - Apr 8
KyotoMar 25Apr 2Mar 31 - Apr 8
FukuokaMar 22Apr 1Mar 30 - Apr 7
Hokkaido (Sapporo)May 2May 6May 4 - 11

Planning a visit to Japan during cherry blossom season can be hit or miss. If you plan too much in advance, booking your trip just a few days off might mean you miss the best of the blooms. If you’re flexible with your itinerary and have the freedom to travel about, by visiting sometime between late March and mid April will almost guarantee you can hunt down some of the pink stuff somewhere in the country. So, where do you go to make sure you get the best viewing possible? Together with our friends over at Skyscanner we’ve created this handy (but by no means exhaustive) guide to help you on your way. Worried you’ll miss it? Leave it to the experts with this Cherry Blossoms Tour of Tokyo where sakura-hunting pros expertly judge the season and promise to take you to discover the best cherry blossoms in Japan!

TOKYO

Shinjuku Gyeon Cherry Blossom

1 – Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden | Shinjuku

For many a visitor to Japan, Tokyo is often the main port of call. When you’re sharing just 2 weeks of world famous cherry blossoms with thousands of other people, you’d best be clued up on where to go for the best view. Shinjuku Gyeon National Garden in one of Tokyo’s most famous districts boasts over a thousand cherry blossom trees. With around a dozen cherry tree varieties, the park makes a great place for viewing if you miss the peak of the season as the different trees flower at slightly different times.

When to go:  March 30 to April 7

How to get there: You can access the Shinjuku Gate entrance from the ‘New South Exit’ of JR Shinjuku Station (10 min walk) or from Shinjukugyoenmae Station on the Marunouchi Subway Line (5 min walk)

Entry fee: 200 yen

 

2 – Sumida Park | Asakusa

Since as far back as the Edo period (1603 – 1868), the area between Azumabashi Bridge and Sakurabashi Bridge, now the humble home of Sumida Park, has been a top choice for planning hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties. Over a thousand trees line either side of the Sumida River, proving to be a magical spectacle year upon year. Make the experience extra special by booking a Sumida River cruise or visiting in the evening when the trees are aglow with twinkling lights. Enhance your Asakusa sakura experience by exploring dressed in a traditional Japanese outfit with a one day kimono rental.

When to go: late March to late April

How to get there: It’s a 5 minute walk from Asakusa Station (Asakusa, Tobu, and Ginza lines)

Admission: Free

 

3 – Chidorigafuchi | greenways surrounding the Imperial Palace

You’ll often here it referred to as ‘Chidorigafuchi Park’ but strictly speaking, the ‘park’ is the cemetery and moat surrounding the Imperial Palace. Equally as famous as a choice location for hanami parties as it is as the official residence of the Emperor of Japan, the green spaces and moat surrounding the former castle burst with colour during the cherry blossom season. Hire a row boat and float beneath the overhanging fronds which create a bed of pink atop the still waters as the petals begin to fall.

When to go: late March to late April

How to get there: Chidorigafuchi is easily walkable on foot from Kudanshita Station (9 min), Hanzomon Station (12 min), Toei Ichigaya Station (14 min) and Takebashi Station (15 min)

Boat rental fee: 800 yen for 30 minutes (during cherry blossom season)

Flights from Singapore to Tokyo (30 March – 7 April) from SGD550

 

FUJI / HAKONE

Lake Kawaguchi Cherry Blossom

1 – Miyagino Hayakawa | Hakone

If you’re in the Hakone area on the hunt for cherry blossom, head to the banks of the Hayakawa River where the pink wonder flanks the sides of the water stretching 600 meters. For nighttime viewing, this spot boasts the best illuminated cherry blossoms display in the area, if not Japan.

When to go: Early to mid April

How to get there: Take Odakyu Limited Express from Shinjuku Station to Hakone-Yumoto Station (85 mins). Take the Hakone-Tozan Bus (T Route) and get off at ‘Miyagino’ bus stop (17 min) then walk for 5 min. Alternatively take the Hakone Tozan Train to ‘Gora Station’ and  walk for 15 min. Click here for a discounted Hakone transport pass.

Admission: Free

 

2 – Gora Park | Hakone

Getting to this park is all part of the fun – take the Hakone Tozan Railway up to this French-style garden. Alongside some natural cherry blossom viewing, the spacious area also houses boutique shops and Japanese tea houses.

When to go: early to mid April

How to get there: five minutes on foot from the Hakone Tozan Railway Gora Station, or take the funicular to go.

Admission: 550 yen (free if you have a Hakone Freepass)

 

3 – Northern Shores of Lake Kawaguchi | Fuji 5 Lakes

An explosion of pink cherry blossoms combined with views of majestic Mount Fuji in the background – can it get any more iconically Japanese than that? For the best viewing spot, head to the seaside promenade of Kawaguchi Music Forest, a theme park and museum. Visiting in the morning will give you a better chance to view Mount Fuji out of the clouds too.

When to go: early April to mid April

How to get there: Take a retro bus from Kawaguchiko Station to Ukai Orugoruno Mori Bijutsukan

Admission: Free

Fly into Tokyo Airports then take transport to the Fuji/Hakone area

 

OSAKA

Osaka Cherry Blossom

1 – Osaka Castle Park | Osaka

The postcard-perfect sight of Osaka Castle surrounded by the delicate pink buds is probably one of the most iconic images you’ll see surfacing around cherry blossom season in Japan. The main castle building, originally built in the 1500s, makes the perfect backdrop for photographs or hanami parties, whilst the centuries old stone wall and moat make for a pleasurable stroll.

When to go: early April

How to get there: Head to JR Osaka Castle Park Station and make the short walk from here

Admission: Free (except for Nishinomaru Garden which is 200 yen in the day, 350 yen in the evening and worth considering a visit for its spacious lawn)

 

2 –  Expo Commemoration Park | Osaka City Outskirts

While away the hours snaking around the paths of this Expo Park, the site of the 1970 World Exhibition in Osaka. Since the Expo, the park has been turned into a large public area, home to 5500 cherry blossom trees lining both sides of the wide pathways with evening light up displays.

When to go: late March to early April

How to get there: Take the Osaka Monorail train to Expo Commemoration Park stop then walk about 5 minutes

Admission: 250 yen

 

3 – Osaka Mint Bureau | Osaka Temma

Each year, the Mint Bureau opens it’s gates for just one week allowing visitors to flock inside and see its special sakura offerings. During the season, the path allows visitors to stream through from the South gate to the North only, keeping the proceedings reasonable sane. The popularity of this location for cherry blossom viewing is because of its fame for yae-zakura trees which are double-flowered (more than 5 petals) and look especially healthy and colorful. They also blossom later than other trees so this location might be a good choice if you’ve missed the first wave of cherry blossom viewing.

When to go: mid April to late April

How to get there: The stations Temmabashi (Tanimachi Line on the subway), Osaka Tenmangu (Tozai Line) and Temmabashi (Keihan Railway) are all approximately 15 minutes away by foot

Admission: Free

Flights from Singapore to Osaka (1 Apr – 9 April) from SGD962

 

KYOTO

Kyoto Cherry Blossom

1 – Daigo-ji | Fushimi

At this temple complex they take cherry blossom celebrations seriously. Each year on the 2nd Sunday of April, the locals embark on a festive parade beneath the sakura in celebration of a 16th century hanami party held by famed local daimyo, general and warrior, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The area boasts over 1000 trees, the weeping cherry varieties are especially impressive.

When to go: late March to early April

How to get there: 15 minute walk from Daigoji Station

Admission: 600 yen

 

2 – Philosopher’s Path | Higashiyama

This canal side walk is a special experience any time of the year, but especially so when either side is flanked by endless sakura trees. You’ll get some solid viewing in during the 2 kilometer walk between Ginkakuji (silver pavilion) and the Nanzenji neighborhood. By renting a kimono in Kyoto, you can visit any of these great viewing spots in the perfect photograph attire!

When to go: early April

How to get there: Located between Ginkakuji and Nanzenji Temples, 5-10 min walk North of Nanzenji’s main temple buildings

Admission: Free

 

3 – Kiyomizu | Dongshan

The large balcony of Kiyomizu temple is one of Kyoto’s most iconic images and sure, you’ll see some cherry blossoms here. But for the best sakura clusters, head to the exit to visit the trees near the pond, whose seasonal blossoms are most impressive. Get an informative look at Kiyomizu temple and the surrounding area on an afternoon tour of Kyoto.

When to go: late March to early April

How to get there: From JR Kyoto Station take a bus to Kiyomizu-michi bus stop then walk 15 minutes

Admission: 400 yen

Fly to Osaka then take transport to Kyoto

 

HOKKAIDO

Hokkaido Sakura

1 – Fort Goryokaku | Hakodate

The star-shaped, Western style fort is one of the most iconic cherry blossom viewing locations in the country. Walking along 1,600 cherry blossom trees is an impressive sight but for the best view, observe the expansive fortress from the 107-meter Goryokaku Tower.

When to go: early – mid May

How to get there: From JR Hakodate Station take a bus to Goryokakukoenmae bus stop then walk 15 minutes

Admission: Free (840 yen to enter the Observatory Deck, Goryokaku Tower)

 

2 – Matsumae Park | Matsumae-cho

As the only Japanese style castle in Hokkaido, Matsumae attracts many visitors wanting to discover local history and culture. A definite highlight of the castle grounds is the Matsumae Park, which boasts over 10,000 cherry blossoms trees of 250 varieties. The huge range of trees gives Matsumae a longer blooming season than typical, making it the ideal spot for latecomers.

When to go: late April to mid May

How to get there: From Hakodate, take the limited express train to Kikonai Station then take a bus to Matsumae. Alternatively, take a direct bus from Hakodate Station to Matsushiro bus stop, which is a short walk from the castle

Admission: Free

 

3 – Shizunai Nijukken Road | Shinhidaka-cho

Located in southern Hokkaido, this 7 km stretch transforms into an explosion of pink when the cherry blossom season hits. Known as Japan’s most famous cherry-lined road, over 200,000 visitors travel yearly to stroll along the path filled with blossom trees.

When to go: early – mid May

How to get there: From JR Shizunai Station, take a 15 minutes taxi ride

Admission: Free

Flights from Singapore to Hokkaido (Sapporo) (4 May – 11 May) from SGD586

KYUSHU

Kumamoto Sakura

1 – Kumamoto Castle

The most famous hanami spot in Kyushu circles one of Japan’s most iconic castles. The grounds surrounding Kumamoto display over 800 sakura trees of varying times, making for a beautiful explosion of color framing the historic building.

When to go: late March – mid April

How to get there: The best way to get to Kumamoto is with a Japan Rail Pass or a one-day Shinkansen train package from Fukuoka. From JR Kumamoto Station, it’s a 15 minute (150 yen) tram ride (get off at Kumatmotojo-mae tram stop) or a 30 – 45 minute walk.

Admission: 500 yen

 

2 – Fukuoka Castle

The go-to event of the season is the Fukuoka Castle Cherry Blossom Festival. Enjoying the 19 varieties of over 1000 spectacular trees surrounded by historic castle walls is a particularly special experience. At night, the trees are skilfully lit up against the stone remains of the castle as a backdrop and on weekends usually roped-off areas are open to the public. Nearby Yanagawa Lake makes for a very tranquil spot to see the sakura in Fukuoka as you glide downstream on a river cruise.

 

When to go: Fri 25th March – Sun 3rd April, 12:00pm-10:00pm (light up from 6:00pm)

How to get there: It’s a 10-15 minute walk from Ohori Koen Subway Station

Admission: Free (300 yen for night viewing)

 

3 – Atago Shrine

For cherry blossom viewing in Fukuoka accompanied by a spectacular view, look no further than Atago Shrine. As you approach the shrine, over 2000 of the pink blooms line either side of the path up to what is the oldest shrine in Fukuoka city. Once at the top, you’ll also get panoramic views across the city and Hakata Bay.

When to go: The shrine holds a sakura festival from 1 – 15 April

How to get there: It’s a 13 minute walk from Muromi Station on the Kuko subway line or an 8 minute walk from the Atagoshita bus stop on Nishitetsu bus No.1 or No.9

Admission: Free

Flights from Singapore to Fukuoka (31 Mar – 8 April) from SGD702

 

All flight prices quoted in this article are indicative and based on availability.

This post was originally published on skyscanner.com.sg