Japan's cherry blossom heaven

Sakura sightseeing in early spring is a favorite Japanese pastime. Whether you're planning to travel to Japan or are already here, the tourist industry is ready to help you explore the best cherry blossom spots.

Cherry blossom season kicks off in Tokyo

In the heart of Tokyo, cherry trees are beginning to explode in brilliant pink.

Cherry blossom varieties abound. In central Tokyo, pink Okame Zakura are now in full bloom. But the best is yet to come. Somei Yoshino — the most popular variety — are expected to bloom around March 24.

Even if you miss the best viewing season in the capital region — late March to early April — you can still enjoy awesome blossoms by following the sakura front. It usually moves northeastward through the Tohoku region and on to Hokkaido. The best time to enjoy cherry blossoms in Sapporo is generally from late April to early May.

The cherry blossom front in Japan usually moves from west to east and then northward. In recent years, warmer winters have led to earlier blooming.

A blooming good time for visitors

"It's absolutely amazing," says a Danish tourist. A Taiwanese woman says she's come to Japan many times just to see the cherry blossoms. With the beauty of Japan's sakura season becoming renowned worldwide, the tourist industry hopes it will provide a welcome post-pandemic boon.

Mutilingual web guide

Whether it's sakura by the river or with locomotives, one publisher's website tells visitors where to take the best social media photos.

A publisher of a popular Japanese guidebook series has created a multilingual website that not only highlights the best sakura spots in Japan but also the history behind them. Most cherry trees were planted and each location has a different story.

Tsubosakadera Temple in Nara Prefecture, via GoodLuck Trip.

Surveys reveal that 80% of incoming visitors want access to tourism information that's popular with Japanese locals. So the website focuses on cherry blossom viewpoints that possess a very "Japanese" essence. It gets about 7 million views a month. Last year, the publisher ramped up its overseas effort by handing out free brochures at airports in Taiwan.

Yamazaki Hiroyuki is the producer of the popular guidebook "Chikyu no Arukikata."

Yamazaki Hiroyuki, who produces the popular guidebook "Chikyu no Arukikata," says the publisher is now trying to meet incoming tourist demands because many visitors know more about Japan than locals and they want higher quality information.

A sakura app in English

Sakura Navi app

Now there's an app that not only tells where the popular sakura spots are, the current state of bloom and the best time to see peak blossoms, but does it in English.

Ito Hiroki, Japan Meteorological Corporation

Ito Hiroki of Japan Meteorological Corporation, which provides the app, says it shows people their current location and the closest places to enjoy cherry blossoms. Sakura Navi also notifies you when you're within 500 meters of a Sakura spot.

Ito says he hopes visitors have good memories and want to return, noting tourism helps revive communities.

NHK's Sakura Map

NHK World's website also features a map that provides the latest information on the best places to enjoy cherry blossoms as the sakura front moves across the nation.

People in Japan are eagerly anticipating this year's cherry blossom season — the first since the nation eased its coronavirus measures — and hope it will set the stage for even better times to come.

Somei Yoshino blossoms