When do they bloom?

The most important factor in determining the blooming time of cherry trees is the geographical location. Generally, the milder the climate, the earlier the blossoms open.

On Japan's southern, subtropical islands of Okinawa, cherry blossoms open as early as January, while on the northern island of Hokkaido, they bloom as late as May. In most major cities in between, including Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, the cherry blossom season typically takes place in early April.

Furthermore, the blooming time of cherry trees differs from year to year depending on the weather. If the weather during the months and weeks preceding the cherry blossom season is mild, blossoms will open early. If it is cold, blossoms will open later. From year to year, the start of the blooming season typically varies by plus/minus one week, but larger deviations are also possible.

Blossoms are opening

How long do they bloom?

The cherry blossom season is relatively short. Full bloom (mankai) is usually reached within about one week after the opening of the first blossoms (kaika). Another week later, the blooming peak is over and the blossoms are falling from the trees. Strong wind and rain can cut the blooming season even shorter.

Full Bloom

Cherry blossom forecasts

Every year, weather services and the media, including japan-guide.com, closely follow the so called "cherry blossom front" as it slowly moves northward. Note that the front generally indicates the opening of the first blossoms (kaika) rather than the arrival of full bloom (mankai).

Of course, not every tree in a city opens on the same day, as trees in shadowy places, for example, can bloom several days later than trees in sunny places. For this reason, a representative sample tree is selected to define the date of kaika (the opening of the first blossoms) for a whole city. In Tokyo, the sample tree is located at Yasukuni Shrine.

Hanafubuki: a blizzard of falling petals

Average blooming dates

The table below lists the average dates on which cherry trees open their first blossoms and reach full bloom for selected cities. Remember that the timings can vary a lot from year to year.

City Average Opening Average Full Bloom
Sapporo May 3 May 7
Hakodate April 30 May 4
Hirosaki April 23 April 28
Sendai April 11 April 16
Tokyo March 26 April 3
Yokohama March 26 April 3
Nagoya March 26 April 3
Matsumoto April 10 April 15
Takayama April 15 April 20
Kanazawa April 4 April 10
Kyoto March 28 April 5
Osaka March 28 April 5
Nara March 29 April 5
Kobe March 28 April 5
Hiroshima March 27 April 4
Takamatsu March 28 April 5
Matsuyama March 25 April 4
Fukuoka March 25 April 1
Kumamoto March 23 April 1
Kagoshima March 26 April 4

Source: Japan Weather Association - dates refer to Somei Yoshino cherry trees.

By Staff Writer, japan-guide.com

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