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Better Late than Never: Sakura Season Begins in Tokyo

In Tokyo, sakura season began half a month later than in 2023. Late bloomers are expected to last until the end of April, offering much to look forward to.



White Oshimazakura blossoms at Azabudai Hills on April 2. (©JAPAN Forward by Hidemitsu Kaito)

On March 29, the Japan Meteorological Agency announced that the official sakura season had begun in Tokyo, based on the blooming of the Somei Yoshino tree at Yasukuni Shrine. This was 5 days later than the average date and 15 days later than in 2023.

An early sakura season had been expected due to the mild winter. However, the return of cold weather in March appears to have delayed it. In 2023, Tokyo saw its earliest sakura season on record, whereas this year's bloom is the latest since March 31, 2012.

Spring sakura varieties bloom at different times throughout the season: the famous Somei Yoshino in mid-spring and some double-flowered species in late spring. That means there is plenty to look forward to, as certain varieties can be enjoyed until the end of April.

Tokyo Sakura Spots

In Tokyo's Shinjuku Gyoen, over 60 sakura varieties bloom between October and late April. It may come as a surprise that certain species, known as "autumn-blooming sakura," start to blossom between October and March.

Ichiyo, a double-flowered variety of sakura in Shinjuku Gyoen. (File photo ©JAPAN Forward by Hidemitsu Kaito)

Winter varieties (kanzakura) begin to bloom in February, marking the start of the sakura zensen in Tokyo. Sakura zensen, or "cherry blossom front," refers to the advance of sakura blossoms across Japan. During peak spring in early April, single-flowered sakura dominate the landscape, while double-flowered varieties take the spotlight from mid-April.

Shinjuku Gyoen welcomes visitors daily throughout the sakura season until April 24. Additionally, the garden is open until 5:30 pm every day until June 30. Sakura varieties to look out for include Ichiyo, Kanzan, Fugenzo, and Fukurokuju. Please note that alcoholic beverages are not allowed in the garden.

Yoko, a double-flowered sakura variety at Shinjuku Gyoen. (File photo ©JAPAN Forward by Hidemitsu Kaito)

Another spot for sakura viewing in Tokyo is Azabudai Hills, which opened in autumn 2023. Though not as diverse as Shinjuku Gyoen, it offers a delightful selection of sakura, including Kawazuzakura in February, Somei Yoshino and Oshimazakura from late March, and Kanzan in the upcoming weeks.

Sakura Tourism

Like the sakura, tourism is flourishing in Tokyo, attracting visitors from various corners of the globe.

Chinese tourists enjoy sakura at Shinjuku Gyoen on March 16. (©JAPAN Forward by Hidemitsu Kaito)

On March 16 at Shinjuku Gyoen, tourists were observed enjoying the early sakura in creative ways. One group stood out in particular, dressed in historical Chinese costumes. They had coordinated their visit based on last year's sakura blooming date. The group only got to see the winter sakura, but they expressed having a great time cosplaying.

Indeed, there are numerous ways to enjoy sakura. Tourists from Vietnam were seen wearing traditional clothes, and a group of women were taking photos of their favorite anime plushies amidst the flowers. Others were indulging in Japanese sweets and bento boxes under the floral spectacle.

Anime plushies and a sakura tree in the background. (©JAPAN Forward by Hidemitsu Kaito)

Economic Impact

According to the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), inbound visitors to Japan in 2023 reached 25,066,100. This marked a 78.6% recovery from pre-COVID levels in 2019. The travel agency JTB anticipates a surge in inbound visitors in 2024, projected at 33.1 million. This is a rise of 3.8% from 2019 and 31.3% from 2023.

An economist predicts that Japan will welcome over 3.5 million inbound visitors during the 2024 sakura season. He foresees a substantial economic impact estimated at approximately ¥1.1358 trillion JPY (about $7.5 billion USD), surpassing 2023 figures by 1.8 times. This encompasses expenses used for transportation, accommodation, dining, and souvenir purchases. Such spending would greatly profit the tourism industry, producers, and retailers.

Japan's sakura season, combined with the rise in inbound tourist spending due to the weak yen, could bring good news for the country's economy.

Vietnamese tourists take a group photo under a weeping sakura tree at Shinjuku Gyoen on March 24. (©JAPAN Forward by Hidemitsu Kaito)

A Late Bloom

In 2023, I introduced the "600 degrees rule" as a simple method to predict sakura blooming.

To apply the rule, one simply adds up the average daily temperatures starting from January 1. The day the cumulative temperature reaches 600°C (or 1112°F) typically marks the onset of the sakura season.

This rule has often guided sakura enthusiasts, but it was off by a wide margin in 2024. The flowers did not bloom even when the accumulated temperature reached 700°C.

Meteorologists explain this anomaly by suggesting that sakura require a sufficiently cold winter to trigger blooming. This means that a warm winter could delay the sakura season, and global warming may be disrupting sakura blooming patterns.


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Hidemitsu Kaito


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