Japan’s most beautiful time of year is coming up fast, and here’s when the flowers are expected to appear in each major region and city.

With all due respect to the beautiful Christmas light displays, New Year’s lucky bag bargain bonanzas, and mouthwatering Valentine’s Day chocolate treats, it’s no secret that the season people look forward to the most in Japan is spring, and that’s because of the cherry blossoms. When the flowers bloom, they transform the Japanese countryside into an achingly beautiful landscape of pastel pink flowers, and the only downsides are that the sakura are fickle about when they’ll bloom, and only stick around for a short time after they do.

That means that timing is everything if you’re hoping to see the cherry blossoms in Japan. Thankfully, Japanese weather forecasting organization Weather News has released its first sakura forecast for the spring of 2024, and says that the blossoms will be arriving quite a bit earlier than usual this year. On Japan’s four main islands (Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku, and Hokkaido), the first place to see the sakura bloom will be Fukuoka, on March 16, followed by Tokyo a day later, March 17, the forecast says.

Taking a look at all the cities on the above forecast map, their start-of-blooming dates are:

Akita: April 8 (9 days earlier than average)
Aomori: April 10 (12 days earlier than average)
Hiroshima: March 20 (5 days earlier than average)
Kagoshima: March 25 (1 day earlier than average)
Kanazawa: March 27 (7 days earlier than average)
Kochi: March 19 (3 days earlier than average)
Nagano: April 1 (10 days earlier than average)
Nagoya: March 19 (5 days earlier than average)
Niigata: March 31 (8 days earlier than average)
Osaka: March 22 (5 days earlier than average)
Sapporo: April 18 (14 days earlier than average)
Sendai: April 1 (7 days earlier than average)
Tokyo: March 17 (7 days earlier than average)

Also, while not shown on the above map, Weather News forecast that the cherry blossoms will begin to bloom in Kyoto on March 22, four days earlier than the average (based on data from 1991 to 2020).

As you can see on the map, the sakura begin to bloom first in the southern/western parts of Japan, where the weather is warmer, then make their way north/east, a phenomenon referred to as the “sakura front.” In addition to the national forecast map, Weather News has also released a series of zoomed-in, region-specific maps.

▼ Kyushu, showing Fukuoka (福岡), Saga, (佐賀), Oita (大分), Nagasaki (長崎), Miyazaki (宮崎), Kumamoto (熊本), and Kagoshima (鹿児島)

▼ Chugoku and Shikoku: Okayama (岡山), Hiroshima (広島), Matsue (松江), Tottori (鳥取), Shimonoseki (下関), Takamatsu (高松), Tokushima (徳島), Matsuyama (松山), and Kochi (高知)

▼ Kansai/Kinki: Hikone (彦根), Kyoto (京都), Osaka (大阪), Kobe (神戸), Nara (奈良), and Wakayama (和歌山)

▼ Tokai: Shizuoka (静岡), Nagoya (名古屋), Gifu (岐阜), and Tsu (津)

▼ Hokuriku: Niigata (新潟), Toyama (富山), Kanazawa (金沢), and Fukui (福井)

▼ Kanto and Koshin: Mito (水戸), Utsunomiya (宇都宮), Maebashi (前橋), Kumagaya (熊谷), Tokyo (東京), Choshi (銚子), Yokohama (横浜), Nagano (長野), and Kofu (甲府)

▼ Tohoku: Aomori (青森), Akita (秋田), Morioka (盛岡), Sendai (仙台), Yamagata (山形), and Fukushima (福島)

▼ Hokkaido: Sapporo (札幌), Wakkanai (稚内), Asahikawa (旭川), Abashiri (網走), Kushiro (釧路), Obihiro (帯広), Muroran (室蘭), and Hakodate (函館)

Now, if you’re looking at the maps/dates and seeing that they don’t align with your current travel itineraries or vacation schedules, don’t despair. Sakura season is still a few months away, and this is only Weather News’ initial forecast, with updates to come as we get closer to spring. Also important to remember is that these are the dates on which the buds are expected to begin blossoming, and it usually takes a few days, and sometimes around a week, for them to hit peak bloom, when the cherry blossoms are at their most beautiful. Still, it’s good to start making your sakura plans as early as you can, in case you need to make revisions later, and this forecast is an excellent place to start.

Source: Weather News
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Weather News
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where after years of living in Japan, he’s still not even remotely tired of sakura.