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Japan Cherry Blossom 2018

Old Apr 23rd, 2017, 12:36 AM
  #1  
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Japan Cherry Blossom 2018

We are planning a trip to Japan for the cherry blossoms. It is so hard to know when they will flower but hopefully with a selection of places we will strike it right somewhere. I would appreciate any suggestions if others have done a similar tour. We have been to Japan many times before but not during Spring.

Below is an example of the places we would like to go and how long we would spend there. This is not definite yet but thought it was better to give an idea of our plans.

Arrive in Osaka 31st March

1st April
Hiroshima by bullet train and then back to Himeji overnight here. We love Himeji Castle and the photos at night during cherry blossom look great.

2nd 3rd and 4th Kyoto with side trips to wherever the blossom is best.

5th 6th nights in Takayama or Wakayama opposite directions I know but once again keen for suggestions.

7th 8th nights Hakone?

9th 10th and 11th nights Tokyo

I understand that each year can be different for the blossoms but if anyone has had success at different times to this it would be good to know. We are taking 6 friends with us.
Wombat47 is offline  
Old Apr 23rd, 2017, 08:39 AM
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I arrived in Osaka on March 31 this year and departed on April 11.

April 1 - the cherry buds at the Osaka keibajo were just opening. From a distance, you could hardly tell they were cherry trees. Just opening pretty much means just buds.

April 2 - Himeji, just opening, but lots of people out that Sunday which made it less disappointing. In Osaka, buds at Sakauranomiya, tons of people enjoying hanami anyway. Seemed like a locals crowd. Pretty much the same thing at Osakajo Koen, buds, more of a tourist crowd. There was an area in the southeast corner where there were some pretty blooms.

It was about this point where I read that trees in Tokyo were in full bloom.

April 3 - buds, pretty much, at Kinosaki Onsen. I only went to the patch closer to the station and not the area farther up.

April 4 - Kyoto, pretty blossoms in Gion and many of the trees along the river.

April 5 - no blossoms to see in Arashiyama from the scenic train.

April 6 - lots of pretty blossoms on the Philosopher's Path. Not full bloom, but really nice. Except that there are just too many foreign tourists in Kyoto. It was busy.

April 7 - Nagoya has a small/narrow river park that is lined on both sides with cherry trees for quite a distance. Stone bleachers at a couple of spots. The trees were in bloom and very pretty. Like the PP in Kyoto, this is not a picnic spot. Unlike the PP, it was very relaxing and peaceful as it is off the tourist path.

April 8 - was in Utsunomiya and failed to get to Nikko, so just went to Tokyo

April 9 - Ueno Park had lots of trees at full bloom. Very nice despite the rain.

April 10 - Shinjuku Gyoen was stunning. Many magnificent trees at then end of full bloom - beautiful blooms with petals on the ground. There are many beauty spots in this park. I spent some time near a grove of about a dozen trees that made a vast canopy of cherry blossoms. I wanted to shout out to everybody to come over here and LOOK AT THIS. I didn't do that of course. I just enjoyed it from a bench and let people walk on by looking at their cell phones.

There are many individual cherry trees in that park that are magnificent as trees. They can be admired any of the year. And there was a cool grove of evergreens. Shinjuku Gyoen is a great park and is worth 10 or 20 times the 200 yen admission. I probably saw about half of the park because I took my time to "be in the place", not just see it. I had to leave some of it as undiscovered else it would have been too much for me.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2017, 08:47 AM
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Bottom line was that after the first few days I realized that it might have been a better plan to have done the trip in the reverse order. Kinosaki and Osaka would have been better at the end as far as the cherry blossoms go.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2017, 09:03 AM
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One more thing: I was surprised and delighted to see so many (mostly young) women wearing beautiful kimono in Kyoto. And girls with their obi up high. Mostly cherry blossom themed, of course. I even saw a few in Tokyo.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2017, 09:16 AM
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April 6, I think - forgot to mention that there were lots of pretty blooming trees at Nijojo at the end of the Route. There was a grove of weepers about halfway through that were still openeing.

And I should mention that Shinkjuku Gyoen has several varieties of trees and they don't all bloom at the same time. There are blooms to see there for weeks.
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Old Apr 24th, 2017, 12:13 AM
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In 2016, our best blossom day was April 3rd in Hikone (not Hakone - we came to Hikone from Hakone and on that date, most of the trees were bare, with just a handful in blossom seen in the entire area).

April 5 blossom was full on in Kyoto but a severely windy storm that night meant that much of it was blown off that night or next day. There was still blossom to enjoy in Kyoto over next few days, just not quite as fully laden as 5th.
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Old Apr 24th, 2017, 01:30 AM
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Thanks for such a detailed response I really appreciate that. We were travelling into Narita and out of Osaka but I was advised that the blossoms opened from the south first. Looking at some maps and what you say we should go back to that trip and also maybe arrive in Tokyo about the 3rd April and go from there.
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Old Apr 24th, 2017, 01:50 AM
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Davey, i have just looked up Hikone that looks beautiful and we haven't been there before. i wonder when the cherry blossoms were at their best there in 2016 or 2015?

Did you stay in a hotel or a ryokan?
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Old Apr 24th, 2017, 06:42 AM
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Wombat, yes from South to North but it's not a straight line - some areas in middle of Japan are sheltered a little more by mountains and some are more open to cold winds, so the forecasts by town/ area are very useful.

I can't comment on your question having only been to Hikone this one time but we loved the castle there very much and of course, seeing it when blossoms were so beautiful was a bonus.

We stayed in a very cheap basic western hotel near the station which we came into from Hakone. It was about 10 minutes walk to the castle, not worth recommending. We did look at a ryokan in Hikone, but as we needed to set off first thing next morning, we decided the price / location wasn't worth it this time, as our hotel was also near the car rental pick up location.

We picked just a few ryokans during the trip and focused them in destinations we could stop and relax a bit so we had time to enjoy the leisurely kaiseki meals, the onsen baths and so on.
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Old Apr 25th, 2017, 04:44 AM
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We have been to Kyoto/Tokyo three times during cherry blossom season. We were told by Tokyoites to do Kyoto first, as the blossoms open in Tokyo first, and it was good advice. On our last trip to Tokyo we left on April 6th and by that time the blossoms were already falling from the trees.

Also, keep in mind that the weather this time of the year can be pretty bad. On every trip we have had one or two days with almost constant rainfall and very strong winds. I mention this because you seem to be planning a lot, but it's probably ok f you are mostly going for the flowers.
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Old Jun 26th, 2017, 11:08 AM
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@ticino and others: We are thinking of going to Tokyo and Kyoto April 2018 (April 2-10) only because that's when my adult daughter can travel, not because we necessarily want to see the cherry blossoms -- but sounds like an added bonus. @ticino's post was the first I've seen warning about such bad weather. Have others had this experience? I am really trying to figure out if worth it for the extra expense and crowds to go at this time or if we should find another destination for this mother/daughter trip? Japan appealed to both of us and we've never been there and 4 nights each in tokyo and Kyoto sounded like a nice trip from LAX.
thanks for any input.
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Old Jun 30th, 2017, 01:25 PM
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I had a sakura-focused trip this past spring 2017, my second trip to Japan. (My first was for koyo in November 2013).

I arrived in Tokyo on March 26th and departed from Kawaguchi-ko on April 13th. I tried to time my itinerary to the average bloom dates in each location I wanted to visit. As luck would have it, a cold and rainy front hit the country right as I arrived and pushed the blooming back a week or so as I understand. General observations:

March 29th: Some lovely blooming trees in Shinjuku Park as mrwunrfl noted, but not at full peak from a full park perspective. Although individual trees were certainly at full peak.

Kyoto: March 30-April 3.Some nice blooming trees in the Imperial Palace Park and in Gion, but full bloom was probably 2-3 days after I left.

Himeji--on April 1 as a day trip from Kyoto. Buds but very few blooms. The photos would have been stunning but I still enjoyed the castle very much.

Hikone--a stop over on the way to Kanazawa on April 7. Trees by the castle were blooming but I'd say still a couple of days from starting peak.

Kanazawa-April 7-10. I finally hit somewhere at full bloom. April 9 and 10 were amazing throughout the city, including Kenroku-en.

Kawaguchi-ko-April 11 and 12. A few blooming trees up at the Chureito Pagoda but for the most part, buds were just starting to form. Nothing on the lake itself that I saw, although Mt. Fuji was, as always, stunning.

In the end, I think it's an educated crap shoot.
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Old Jun 30th, 2017, 03:48 PM
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In 2015 we planned our trip using the dates found on the link below. Be sure to scroll down the page:

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2011_when.html

We were there from April 1 - April 15. We found that the peak bloom started about 3 days earlier than their average dates, but we had wonderful blooms in Tokyo, Hikone, Kyoto, Kanazawa and Matsumoto (although very wet), and past peak in Okayama, Himeji and Miyajima.

Keep in mind that if you are open to taking day trips, and are early or late for peak blooms in your area, a change in elevation or direction will often bring you to peak blooms with a train ride of an hour or two.
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