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30 (More) Pictures to Inspire Your Sakura Travels

There were no rockstars in Kyoto over the past week, but huge swathes of the city were nonetheless standing-room only.

On second thought, I take that back—there were certainly celebrities present, but they were amid the crowds, not in front of them. Japan’s cherry blossoms were the star of the show, as they are every year at this time. Well, around this time. Usually.

The first time I came to Japan for sakura season, nine years ago as of this writing, conventional wisdom was that cherry trees in Tokyo reached a state of mankai (full bloom) around the first of April, with those in Kyoto and most other destinations along the country’s “Golden Route” exploding into bursts of pink and white a few days after that. 

I’m not qualified to say why—many people, most equally as unqualified as me, say climate change—but the start of the season has gotten earlier almost every year since then, with 2021’s and 2023’s blooms the earliest in more than a millennium. 

Indeed, rather than dwell on why this is happening, I’ve chosen to adapt to it. I wait until the last minute possible (ideally mid-March, when the official “flowering meter” starts to become accurate) to book flights and hotels. After I arrive in Japan, I often cancel existing hotel reservations and make new ones based on what conditions are like on the ground.

Increasing my knowledge of the sakura—I’ve all but internalized the way the “cherry blossom front” moves across the country, as well as how long the flowers stay on the trees, and most of the best places to see them in given regions of Japan—is one of the many ways I’ve applied kaizen, a Japanese business philosophy built on the principle of continuous improvement, to my own travels in the country.

Simultaneously, I’ve also striven to push the envelope in terms of my photography, which I hope the collection below reflects. I hope my pictures (and writing!) will inspire you to plan your own spring trip to Japan, even if you don’t have as much time as I do to obsess over beautiful flowers that die a few days after they bloom.

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