Sakura season: The beauty and transience of Japan's cherry blossoms

It's Japan's cherry blossom season 2024. Plan your sakura viewing trip today and dine like a local

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TableCheck

Mar 7, 2024 - 7 min read

Sakura season: The beauty and transience of Japan's cherry blossoms

Every year from March to May, Japan celebrates the Hanami Festival, a traditional flower-viewing festival that honors the magic of cherry blossoms and plum blossoms. Each year, the Japan Meteorological Department predicts when cherry blossoms will bloom to help people plan when to enjoy them.

Cherry blossom forecast: Enjoying sakura throughout Japan

Tokyo: March 21
Sapporo: April 25 
Kanazawa: March 30
Sendai: April 2
Nagoya: March 21
Kyoto: March 23
Osaka: March 23
Fukuoka: March 22

The cherry blossom season holds deep cultural significance for the Japanese, marking the arrival of spring. Also known as sakura, these cherry blossoms, with their gentle and benign beauty, stand out amidst the otherwise ordinary urban labyrinths of big cities, prompting dwellers to pause and marvel at the fleeting beauty of life. It is commonplace to witness people gathering with friends underneath cherry blossom trees during the Sakura season.

*Dates for Sakura may vary. Please check the Japan National Tourism Organization for more information.

Tokyo: Cherry blossom magic in the metropolis

Hanami in Tokyo

Tokyo's superstar attraction every arrival of spring is its cherry blossoms. The cherry blossom season is anticipated to start on March 23rd this year and continue until the end of March.

Here are the top three places to view Sakura in Tokyo:

  • Meguro River: The riverbanks of Meguro become picturesque with the blooming sakura trees. While it could get very busy during the Sakura season, for picture-perfect Instagram posts, Meguro is the place to be.

  • Ueno Park: One of Japan's first public parks, Ueno is a popular spot for hanami picnics and gatherings during the cherry blossom season. Strolling along the avenue of the sakura in Ueno's main park becomes part of the cherry blossom experience while many people also stay for nighttime cherry blossom viewing.

  • Yoyogi Park: There are about 600 cherry trees of different varieties in Yoyogi making it a perfect setting to view sakura. With a huge open space and a pond, many locals and other revelers descend here to enjoy the cherry blossoms.

Tokyo restaurants to try during the Cherry Blossom Festival

When in the city, these are the restaurants that one needs to visit for some spectacular sakura views:

Q.E.D Club: Classically majestic French cuisine in the heart of Nakameguro

Nestled in the former Hungarian Ambassador's residence, the QED club offers delicate French and flavorful Teppanyaki fare in an elegant atmosphere. As spring graces Tokyo, the delicate beauty of Sakura reaches QED, enhancing its timeless grandeur.

Address: 1-1-29 Nakameguro, Meguro-ku Tokyo Japan 153-0061
Website: QED club
Reservations: TableCheck

Happoen Restaurant Tsubochuan at Happo-En: A culinary jewel with a spectacular garden

Located within the serene Japanese garden of Happoen is Tsubochuan, a distinguished Japanese cuisine restaurant known for its elaborate kaiseki meals and shabu-shabu. Tsubochuan is an ideal venue for special occasions like betrothal engagements and business meetings. The restaurant is renowned for its luxurious ambiance bejeweled with the view of a flourishing Spring garden.

Address: Happo-en, 1-1-1, Shirokanedai, Minato City, Tokyo
Website: Happoen Restaurant
Reservations: TableCheck

Thrush Cafe at Happo-En: Farm-fresh excellence with a garden view

Thrush Cafe celebrates the ethos of the farm-to-table concept. The most striking feature of this Italian cafe is its enormous windows that frame a lush garden, which seems like an extension of the indoor space.

Address: Happo-en, 1-1-1, Shirokanedai, Minato City, Tokyo 
Website: Thrush Cafe 
Reservations: TableCheck

Restaurant Enjyu at Happo-En: Harmony of East and West in a plate

Using the flavors of seasonal ingredients sourced from all over Japan, Enjyu serves Japanese food and innovative Western and Chinese dishes prepared with the delicate skills of culinary craftsmen. At Enjyu, guests can taste unique dishes in a sophisticated space and a spectacular view of the garden. In addition, Enjyu provides private rooms that can be reserved for events like family reunions or business dinners.

Address: Happo-en, 1-1-1, Shirokanedai, Minato City, Tokyo  
Website: Enjyu at Happo-En
Reservations: TableCheck

Kinkei Lounge at Meiji Kinenkan: Serving lush lawn vistas 

Kinkei Lounge is set in the Meiji Kinenkan, enveloped by the Meiji Jingu Shrine, a Shinto shrine with a huge forest lawn in Shibuya, Tokyo. Its location makes Kinkei Lounge ideal for a relaxing day out while viewing the cherry blossoms. The food menu has diverse and interesting options with Duck Curry Rice and other seasonal delights. Additionally, guests should try their siphon-extracted coffee.

Address: 2-2-23 Moto-Akasaka,Minato-ku,Tokyo, Japan 
Website: Meiji Kinenkan
Reservations: TableCheck 

Hagoromo at Meiji Kinenkan: Culinary craftmanship featuring seasonal delicacies

Hagoromo restaurant has dedicated counters for sushi, tempura, and teppanyaki. Here, skilled chefs showcase their artistry, bringing forth the delicate craftsmanship that elevates the delightful flavors of Japan, especially during the Sakura season.

Address: -2-2-23 Moto-Akasaka,Minato-ku,Tokyo, Japan 
Website: Meiji Kinenkan
Reservations: TableCheck

Hanagasumi at Meiji Kinenkan: An unforgettable Kaiseki adventure

Visit Hanagasumi for authentic kaiseki cuisine and a refined ambiance. Relax in one of seven elegantly appointed private rooms that can accommodate groups ranging from two to forty-eight people on chairs or sunken kotatsu.

Address: 2-2-23 Moto-Akasaka,Minato-ku,Tokyo, Japan 
Website: Hanagasumi
Reservations: TableCheck

Kyoto: The ancient capital of blooms

Sakura in Kyoto

As if Kyoto's charm wasn't enchanting enough, the arrival of Sakura season brings an extra touch of magic with the blooming cherry blossoms. A visit to the philosopher’s path is a rite of passage during the spring season as the anticipated flowering period kicks off on March 22nd.

Here are the top three places to view Sakura in Kyoto:

  • Maruyama Park: Located near Yasaka Shrine, Maruyama Park is a favorite spot among locals to view Sakura. It features a large cherry tree that is illuminated at night. Hundreds of people gather under the cherry trees for picnics.

  • Philosopher's Park: Located between Ginkaku-Ji and Nanzenji Temples, this canal-side path is filled with cherry trees, and a perfect spot to contemplate the transient beauty of the cherry blossoms.

  • Kiyomizu-Dera Temple: Kiyomuzi-Dera attracts people from all walks of life no matter what season. However, it has also become a prime spot to do cherry blossom viewing during the day and also at nighttime, when the temple and its surroundings become illuminated for Sakura season.

Kyoto restaurants to try during Sakura season

Here are some restaurants that offer brilliant spring vistas:

Kifune Kyoto: A culinary tale by the river

In Kibune’s peaceful cocoon, this legendary culinary inn was once helmed by Priest Hyoe. The ambiance brings diners close to nature as they can listen to the gentle melody of the river, bask in the lush surroundings, and enjoy the wild vegetables unique to the spring season. 

Address: 101, Kuramakibune-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-city, Kyoto
Website: Kifune Kyoto
Reservations: TableCheck

Sagenta at Kifune Ugenta: Kaiseki delights by the babbling stream

At Ugenta, guests can gorge on delectable traditional kaiseki while a tranquil stream flows right beneath them. Irresistible desserts like cheesecake and shaved ice are also popular with diners.  

Address: 76 Kuramakibunecho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 601-1112, Japan
Website: Kifune Ugenta
Reservations: TableCheck

Oku No Niwa At Yosiya Arashiyama: Dive into udon joy at Arashiyama's culinary gem

This hidden gem of a restaurant is ideal to escape the hustle and bustle of Arashiyama. Diners love their signature udon noodles, soaking in dashi broth, which always steals the spotlight. Guests would also be pleased to know that they offer Halal, vegan, and gluten-free dishes in traditional Japanese cuisine.

Address: 31, Saga Tenryuji Zorocho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto 616-8384 
Website: Oku no Niwa
Reservations: TableCheck

Itsuki Chaya Arashiyama: A quintet for every season

The striking view of the Katsuragawa River and Togetsukyo Bridge draws guests to this restaurant as they relish a quintet of a seasonal gourmet bowl.

Address: 616-8383 Kyoto, Ukyo Ward, Saganakanoshimacho, (kanyuchi) 10
Website: Itsuki Chaya Arashiyama
Reservations: TableCheck

Takao Kinsuitei: Where nature's palette meets traditional culinary craft

Nestled in Takao, Takao Kinsuitei is a Japanese-style hotel. It is surrounded by nature that changes hues every season. The food at Kinsuitei is expertly crafted using traditional Kyoto cooking methods and features the freshest seasonal ingredients.

Address: 40 Umegahata Tonohatacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8293, Japan
Website: Takao Kinsuite
Reservations: TableCheck

Robin: The true essence of Kyoto with seasonal ingredients

Robin, a culinary gem on Ponto-Cho Street, sources exquisite seasonal ingredients from across Japan. The head chef's quest for top suppliers ensures a rich dining experience. Diners should try the star dish, kamameshi, featuring separated rice grains and flavorful seasonal ingredients.

Address: 〒604-8011 137-4 Wakamatsu-cho (Oku-kita No. 2), Pontocho Street, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto
Website: Robin
Reservations: TableCheck

Arashiyama: Legacy in bloom

Kyoto-Kitcho is a legacy establishment offering a bouquet of special experiences like tea ceremonies, boat rides, and tatami mat games. Surrounded by lush foliage, the restaurant comes alive during Sakura season when the trees flaunt beautiful spring blossoms.

Address: 58 Saga Tenryuji Aonobaba-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
Website: Arashiyama
Reservations: TableCheck

Nara: The deer city

Cherry blossom viewing in Nara

Nara looks like a city from a children’s story book with old mystical temples, deers prancing around joyfully and cherry trees painting the city in different shades of pink and white every spring. If the best cherry blossom viewing spots had to be picked, Yoshimizu-jinja Shrine and Ohnoji Temple would be at the top of the list offering spectacular views of thousands of cheery trees topped with a soul-soothing ambiance. While in Nara, don’t forget to dine at Le Terrasse for a magical spring dining experience. 

Best place for cherry blossom viewing in Nara:

  • Nara Deer Park: With hundreds of deers roaming free, Nara Deer Park is a fun place to visit during the Sakura season as the deers and the cherry trees make for a stunning picturesque backdrop for visitors.

  • Yoshimizu-jinja Shrine: Located on the side of Mount Yoshino, the Yoshimizu-jinja Shrine offers a spectacular view of "Senbonzakura', thousands of cherry trees that provide a soul-soothing ambiance.

  • Ohnoji Temple: Ohnoji is a small temple surrounded by the Udagawa River. During the Sakura season in March, the temple grounds transform into a burst of cherry blossom pink.

The best Nara restaurant to book during Sakura

La Terrasse: Cherry blossom canopy

La Terrasse is a French restaurant in the beautiful Nara Park, in a prime location surrounded by world heritage sites. When guests sit at the table and look up at the ceiling, they can see the cherry blossom trees and the sky through the skylight. The chirruping of the birds and the gentle sounds of the deer create an unforgettable dining experience.

Address: 98-1 Kasuganocho, Nara,
Website: La Terrasse
Reservations: TableCheck 

More places to experience the Hanami Festival

Beyond Kyoto, Nara, and Tokyo other Cherry blossom destinations are worth a visit. Here are a few more sakura stops that travelers should include in their itinerary:

Takada Castle Site Park

Takada Castle Site Park holds an annual cherry blossom Festival, one of Japan's three major and most spectacular spring events. What sets apart this Japanese Cherry Blossom Tradition is admiring the cherry blossoms on a moonlit night making it one of those moments where a mental snapshot of a view stays for a lifetime.

Address: Japan, 〒943-0835 Niigata, Joetsu, Motoshirocho, 44−1

MinamiIzu

Sitting on the southern tip of Shizuoka's Izu Peninsula is Minamilzu which boasts over 800 cherry blossom trees lining the Aono River for four kilometers. The cherry blossom festival conducted annually is a delightful mix of food and nature, with numerous food stalls dotting the park, creating a wholesome experience for people of all ages.

Address: Minamilzu in Shizuoka Prefercture

Hirosaki Park

Come spring, going to Hirosaki Park is like stepping into a painting. Beautiful white, soft pink and vivid pink blooms adorn an astonishing 2,600 trees. Visitors can paddle around the park's moat, which also serves as a great cherry blossom viewing spot, especially at night when the trees are stunningly illuminated. 

Address: Japan, 〒036-8356 Aomori, Hirosaki, Shimoshiroganec

Arakurayama Sengen Park

The Arakurayama Sengen Park Cherry Blossom Festival is a vibrant event where visitors can watch 650 plants bloom as they eat local delicacies at stalls and enjoy stage performances. The park's five-story pagoda observation deck is the perfect place to take in sweeping views of the cherry blossoms and Mount Fuji.

Address: 2-chome-4-1 Asama, Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi 403-0011, Japan

Makino Park

Makino Park, listed among Japan's top 100 cherry blossom-viewing spots, was created to nurture saplings gifted by botanist Dr. Tomitaro Makino, hailed as the father of Japanese botany. Housing 17 cherry tree varieties, the park turns pink during Sakura season. Amplifying the celebration at the annual cherry blossom festival are the rows of lanterns and special events.

Make reservations at the most coveted restaurants in town during Cherry Blossom season in Japan using TableCheck.

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