Japan’s most beloved flowers are often associated with April, but they’ll be at their most beautiful in Tokyo before that, says forecast.

With Christmas and New Year’s over, it’s time to start looking forward to spring, and in Japan, that means looking forward to cherry blossoms. Sure, we got a sneak preview thanks to some unusual weather back in October, but the true sakura season doesn’t start until April…or wait, is it March? May?

As beautiful as Japan’s cherry blossoms are, they’re also tremendously fickle as to when they’ll make their appearance. Thankfully, though, the Japan Meteorological Corporation has just released its forecast of when the flowers are expected to bloom this year, with March 18 being the first predicted date for sakura to bloom (outside of tropical Okinawa Prefecture).

▼ Sakura forecast 2018 map

That March 18 debut date, however, is for Kochi, on the island of Shikoku. If you’re looking to get your sakura fix in Japan’s capital, March 22 is when the cherry blossoms will start to bloom in Tokyo, Japan Meteorological Corporation says, which is four days earlier than average for the city. On the other hand if you want to see sakura in Japan’s previous capital, Kyoto, you’ll need to wait until March 25.

The by-city predicted dates of first blossoming are:
● Kochi: March 18
● Fukuoka: March 20
● Tokyo: March 22
● Nagoya: March 22
● Hiroshima: March 23
● Wakayama: March 24
● Kyoto: March 25
● Osaka: March 27
● Kagoshima: March 28
● Kanaawa: April 2
● Nagano: April 9
● Sendai: April 9
● Aomori: April 24
● Sapporo: May 4

However, what’s arguably more important than when the sakura start to blossom is when they’ll be in full bloom. That usually takes about a week (give or take a few days), and Japan Meteorological Corporation predicts full bloom for Tokyo to occur on March 29. That’s good news for Tokyoites and Tokyo travelers, since March 29 is Friday, which would make the following March 30-31 weekend the perfect time for hanami cherry blossom viewing parties in Tokyo’s parks and gardens. Allowing for a similar time-lapse, the best cherry blossom-viewing weekends for other cities are predicted to be:
● Kochi: March 23-24
● Fukuoka: March 30-31
● Kyoto: April 6-7
● Osaka: April 6-7
● Sendai: April 13-14
● Aomori: April 27-28
● Sapporo: May 11-12

We should also mention that these are Japan Meteorological Corporation’s current estimates, and are subject to revision should unexpected changes to sakura-related conditions occur. Still, we’ve got these dates circled on our calendars now, and if anything changes, we’ll be back to let you know.

Sources: @Press, Japan Meteorological Corporation
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Japan Meteorological Corporation, Pakutaso
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where after more than a decade living in Japan, he still gets as excited about sakura as he did the first time he saw them.

[ Read in Japanese ]