5 Must-Know Tips Before Your First Amazing Sakura Season Experience
Whether it’s Korea or Japan, most hot spots are currently awash with tourists savouring their luxurious cherry blossom fix right now. If you are in the midst of packing for your first trip to experience the wonders of the sakura season, or planning ahead for next year, GoBear has five important tips that will make it an unforgettable trip!
1. Plan your trip around the sakura forecast
If Japan is your destination, you ought to know that the blooming differs in the north from the south. Hence if you have a grand plan to follow the cherry blossom trail, you should consider making the journey northwards beginning from the southern subtropical islands such as Okinawa before hitting up northernmost Hokkaido island for the final hurrah.
The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) is your good friend. Every year they release a chart predicting the first bloom and peak bloom dates based on the last ten years’ trends.
Manage your expectations though, as this is not an exact science.
Alternatively, the Cherry Blossom Forecast is another source of reference to plan ahead for a magical springtime in Japan.
Hot tip: A Japan Rail Pass will help ease your transportation woes if you are coupling sightseeing and the sakura season in a number of cities.
2. No, it is not uniquely Japanese
That’s right, if you’ve already filled your quota of visiting Japan, there are many other places to marvel at the stunning cherry blossoms.
If you’re still riding high on the hallyu wave, then Korea is another popular destination with almost as many festivals to rival Japan to savour the stunning sakura sights. The spring flower season takes place at around the same time and also follows a northern upward trend.
Top on your list should be the Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival in Seoul and Changwon’s Jinhae Festival.
Another reason why Korea should be considered? Even if you missed out on the cherry blossom season, you can still look forward to the azalea bloom which arrives almost immediately after the sakura!
How about Taiwan instead for more travel inspiration? If you’ve been paying attention to what the Bear has been talking so far, you’d remember that the cherry blossom season follows a north-bound trend. Taiwan’s geographical location means that you can expect the season to begin earlier – as early as January – before it reaches Japan or Korea!
Alishan National Scenic Area is a must-visit for Taiwanese tourists in search of picturesque Yoshino cherry trees and the glorious forest railway. Covering more than 400 square kilometres, Alishan may be Taiwan’s most-visited national park, but its sheer massiveness also means that there’s enough space to admire more than ten varieties of cherry trees – and take the Instagram-worthy pics you desire away from throngs of other tourists.
United States of America
Did you know that more than 100 years ago (1912 to be exact), Japan gave more than 3,000 cherry trees to the United States as a sign of friendship? The bulk of them were planted in Sakura Park in New York City, making it a very popular spot for Japanese residents come sakura season to enjoy a bout of hanami.
Other major cities where you can enjoy the full splendour of Japanese cherry trees in the US of A include Washington D.C. (Tidal Basin), Boston (Charles River Esplanade), New Jersey (Branch Brook Park) just to name a few. Expect the cherry trees to bloom at around the same time as Japan.
Hot tip: If you’re visiting more than one country, say Japan and Taiwan, buy an annual travel insurance plan for convenience and peace of mind
3. More than 600 species of sakura in Japan
The most popular sakura species grown across Japan is the someiyoshino which is almost all-white with a tinge of pink. However, there are more than 600 varieties to be found – more than enough to fill your Instagram feed with a wide spectrum of soft whites and lush pinks. Peak times depend on the species of the flower in question.
Hot tip: Certain petals and leaves of sakura can be eaten and even drunk!
4. Stock up on wet tissues!
In a three-month survey concluding March 2017, 569 correspondents told Japanese travel site Jalan.net their top items to bring for the perfect cherry blossom viewing picnic. Of course, having picked the perfect hanami spot, you don’t want to be found wanting when it comes to completing the picnic experience, don’t you?
Guess which item came out tops? Wet tissues! Between adjusting the picnic mat and dipping your grubby hands into your snacks, you’ll still need to put on your blanket when it gets chilly and kanpai your friends; good hand hygiene can not be stressed hard enough.
Other notable items included beer dispensers, disposable heat packs and a cushion leisure sheet that would make sitting on uneven grounds a whole lot more tolerable.
Hot tip: Oedo Onsen Monogatari in Tokyo combines both cherry blossom viewing and traditional bathing experience during their Feast of Flowers event!
5. Plan your travel now
Spring travel in Japan needs to be planned early. Very early. Due to the increased popularity of March to May in Japan for tourists, accommodation and flights will need to be booked well in advance. Hotels (and even AirBnB) can be in short demand, not to mention at a premium if you do find what you seek. GoBear would recommend at least six to 12 months ahead.
So if you are reading this just before you’re about to make your way to the airport, shame on you! Just kidding :)
If you miss out on the cherry blossom season upon arrival at your chosen Japanese city, worry not, Japan is always amazing regardless of any season!
Hot tip: There are many sakura season tourist packages that will cover all your needs – take the brainwork out of the planning and focus on having fun instead!
There you go! The Bear has done the research here for you to enjoy a top, top sakura experience. Don't forget to secure your travel insurance for a hassle-free holiday!