Every year for around three weeks at the end of March to early April, cherry blossoms bloom across the nation. They begin in the south in Okinawa and make their way north to Hokkaido, the last part of Japan to enjoy the soft, pink petals. At the peak of their bloom, parks, gardens, and river walks are packed with people picnicking under the blossoms, a tradition known as hanami. While seeing sakura in full bloom is an incredible experience, not everyone can visit Japan in spring. Luckily, cherry blossoms aren’t the only flowers to get excited about.
Cherry blossom season in Japan is on many tourist's bucket list
Though often underappreciated, plum blossoms are just as beautiful as cherry blossom—and are often mistaken for being cherry blossom—and mark the first signs of spring in Japan. The pretty pink blooms grow in temples and parks all across Japan. Your best chance to see them is in mid-February. If you’re visiting Tokyo, Hanegi Park is home to hundreds upon hundreds of plum (ume) trees. You can find equally beautiful blooms in Koishikawa Korakuen Garden and Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden. Shinjuku Gyoen is also a beautiful spot, but be aware that the park has an entrance fee, and alcohol is prohibited. If you’re visiting Kyoto, the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine complex is home to some gorgeous plum trees and the occasional early blooming cherry trees.
Japan's wisteria is just as photogenic as its cherry blossom
While plum blossoms announce the arrival of spring then wisteria mark the end of spring. These stunning purple and white flowers cascade from trees creating waterfalls of flowers. The best time to see the blossoms is between late April and early May. Wisteria grows in most regions of Japan, but the most famous place to enjoy the blossoms is Ashikaga Park in Tochigi Prefecture, where a 130-year-old tree creates an 80m long tunnel of pastel flowers. Kawachi Fujien in Fukuoka has an even longer tunnel of cascading wisteria blooms made up of 22 varieties of wisteria. In Tokyo, Kameido Tenjin Shrine has over a hundred trees that typically bloom in late April. Byodoin Temple in Kyoto is known for its scenic garden and a 250-year-old wisteria with gorgeous strings of flowers. Set Instagram to stun because the wisteria against the backdrop of the striking red shrine makes for some incredible photos.
The Shibazakura Festival makes a trip to Fuji Five Lakes even more special
The annual Shibazakura Festival is held about three kilometers south of Lake Motosuko in the Fuji Five Lakes area. Stunning fields of shibazakura, pink moss, surround the lake. On clear days you can see Mt. Fuji sitting serenely in the distance. The festival is held from mid-April until early June. If you’re visiting during the Golden Week holiday, be warned that the crowds can get pretty dense. The best time to see the shibazakura is the first three weeks in May. Five varieties of 800,000 shibazakura create an ocean of white and purple hues surrounding the lake. There are stalls all around the grounds selling souvenirs, food, and local produce.
Hokkaido's lavender fields make for some of Japan's most picturesque countryside
If you’re visiting Japan in summer, you are in time to catch the lavender fields of Furano, in the center of Japan’s northernmost prefecture, Hokkaido. Furano has some of Japan’s most picturesque rural landscapes. The lavender starts blooming in late June and is at peak bloom from mid-July to early August.
Hokkaido is a must-visit for flower lovers
Along with lavender, you can find poppies, rape blossoms, lupins, lilies, tulips and sunflowers. Furano is an excellent destination for flower lovers. Best of all, unlike the cherry blossoms, the flowers found in Furano have a much longer blooming period.
About the author
Richard is a snowboarding, food blogging, graphic designer who has been living in Japan for over a decade with his partner.