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 Click here for the Cherry Blossom Forecast 2013 

When Japan's weather services issued their first cherry blossom forecasts back in the cold days of January and February, most of them predicted the season in Tokyo to peak in early April. However, temperatures in March rose far above average in most regions of Japan and especially so in the Tokyo region, taking the weather services by surprise and resulting in a record-breaking early cherry blossom season in the capital this year.

Due to the discrepancy between the initial cherry blossom forecasts and the actual blooming dates, many foreign tourists who booked their trips to Tokyo for early April, are now arriving too late for the peak of the season. In order to help such tourists, we created this guide on how to see some cherry blossoms even when most of Tokyo's petals have fallen already.

Option 1 - Take a side trip

The cherry blossoms in many nearby cities north of Tokyo typically bloom 3-7 days later than those in Tokyo. Likewise, the blossoms on the mountains surrounding the capital follow a somewhat later schedule. Many of these places can be reached from Tokyo in relatively inexpensive train rides. Below are some possible destinations for those who arrive just a couple of days too late:

Takasaki City, Gunma Prefecture - about one week behind central Tokyo
100-120 minutes north of Tokyo by JR Takasaki Line (about 1890 yen one way)
50-60 minutes north of Tokyo by JR Joetsu Shinkansen (about 4600 yen one way)
Among the city's most attractive cherry blossom spots are Kannonyama Park, a hilltop park with 3000 cherry trees and a 42 meter tall Buddhist statue of Kannon, and the former castle park with a few hundred trees.

Maebashi City, Gunma Prefecture - about one week behind central Tokyo
Two hours north of Tokyo by JR Takasaki Line (about 1890 yen one way)
The capital city of Gunma Prefecture lies a short additional train ride northeast of above mentioned Takasaki. Maebashi Park at the foot of the 154 meter tall prefectural government building features about 200 trees. Further outside the city center along the slopes of Mount Akagi stand the thousand cherry trees that make up the Akagi Senbonzakura, a very pleasant area for hanami activities that due to its slightly higher altitude usually blooms about two weeks behind Tokyo.

Mount Takao - about 1-2 weeks behind central Tokyo
One hour west of central Tokyo by Keio Railways (370 yen one way from Shinjuku)
Mount Takao (Takaosan), the popular mountain just outside of central Tokyo, features only a modest number of cherry trees around its base and summit. More trees are found in the Itchodaira area, which can be reached in an additional 30 minute hike beyond the summit. More about Takaosan.

Hakone - about 1-2 weeks behind central Tokyo
90-120 minutes west of Tokyo by Odakyu Railways (about 1000-2000 yen one way from Shinjuku)
Like the above mentioned Takaosan, Hakone covers a wide range of elevation, which results in a prolonged season that trails the one in Tokyo by up to two weeks. Cherry trees are not abundant in Hakone, but there are a few nice spots, such as Gora Park, to enjoy them. More about Hakone.
Akagi Senbonzakura in Maebashi City, Gunma Prefecture

For travelers delayed by over a week and in possession of a Japan Rail Pass, JR East Pass or JR Kanto Area Pass, the following are three recommended daytrip destinations for cherry blossom viewing:

Matsumoto - about two weeks behind central Tokyo
2.5 hours west of central Tokyo by JR limited express (about 6000 yen one way)
Covered by the Japan Rail Pass and JR East Pass
The city of Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture is most famous for Matsumoto Castle, one of the most celebrated castles in Japan. The castle also serve as the city's prime hanami spot, but is not the only attractive place to see the blossoms. Read more about Matsumoto's hanami spots.

Fuji Five Lakes - about two weeks behind central Tokyo
2 hours west of central Tokyo by train or highway bus (about 1700-4000 yen one way)
Access by train is covered by the JR Kanto Area Pass
The Fuji Five Lake region (Fujigoko) at the northern base of Mount Fuji offers the opportunity to see the cherry blossoms in combination with Japan's most iconic volcano. Read more about Fujigoko's hanami spots.

Fukushima - about two weeks behind central Tokyo
90 minutes north of Tokyo by JR Tohoku Shinkansen (about 8000 yen one way)
Covered by the Japan Rail Pass and JR East Pass
Fukushima Prefecture is home to some outstanding cherry trees and hanami spots. Two of the most outstanding are Hanamiyama Park in Fukushima City and the Miharu Takizakura, an over 1000 year old weeping cherry tree east of Koriyama City. Read more about Fukushima City's hanami spots and the Takizakura.
Hanamiyama Park in Fukushima City is one of Japan's most pleasant hanami spots

Option 2 - See late-blooming cherry tree varieties

There are numerous cherry tree varieties that bloom later than the regular cherry trees and can be viewed in Tokyo in early to mid April this year. They are not as numerous or as spectacular as the regular cherry trees, and Tokyoites do not celebrate them in the same, dramatic way as they celebrate the regular cherry blossoms, but they can also make for some nice hanami.

Late-blooming cherry trees typically have larger, more intricate blossoms than the regular cherry trees, but because their leaves develop at the same time as their blossoms, the trees have a less homogeneous, intensive appearance than the regular cherry trees whose blossoms do not get interfered by leaves until after the end of their flowering peak.

Shinjuku Gyoen
Ten minute walk from Shinjuku Station
The best place to enjoy late flowering cherry trees in Tokyo is Shinjuku Gyoen. The spacious park features hundreds of late flowering trees of dozens of different varieties which are in bloom for at least two weeks beyond the end of the regular cherry blossom season.
Late flowering cherry blossoms

Option 3 - Visit the Kansai Region instead

If you can, visit the Kansai Region around Kyoto and Osaka, instead. The temperatures in the Kansai Region were not as hot as in Tokyo, and the season there is expected to divert much less drastically from the average year and initial forecasts than in Tokyo. According to the current forecasts, Kyoto's cherry blossom season is not expected to reach its peak until early April when the season in Tokyo is probably going to be over already.

Page last updated: March 20, 2013