The cherry blossom (sakura) has been celebrated in Japan for many centuries and holds a very particular place in Japanese culture. Although there are many varities of cherry tree in Japan, most bloom for just a couple of days in spring. The Japanese celebrate this time of the year with hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties: friends, family or work colleagues gather and sit on plastic mats under the blossoming trees, to drink, sing, chat or just admire the spectacle.

The most important factor in determining the blooming time of cherry trees is the geographical location. The milder the climate, the earlier the blossoms open, so the blossom-time sweeps up the country from south to north.
On Japan’s southern, subtropical islands of Okinawa, cherry blossoms open as early as January, while on the northern island of Hokkaido, the flowering can be as late as May. In most major cities in between, such as Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, the cherry blossom season typically takes place in early April.

Furthermore, the blooming time of cherry trees differs from year to year depending on the weather. If the weather during the months and weeks preceding the cherry blossom season is mild, blossoms will open early. If it is cold, blossoms will open later. From year to year, the start of the blooming season can vary by as much as two weeks. The table below shows average times (from north to south of the country)

City Average Opening Average Full Bloom
Naha January 19 February 4
Kagoshima March 26 April 3
Kumamoto March 24 April 2
Fukuoka March 26 April 3
Matsuyama March 28 April 5
Takamatsu March 30 April 6
Hroshima March 29 April 5
Kobe March 30 April 6
Nara April 1 April 6
Osaka March 30 April 6
Kyoto March 31 April 7
Kanazawa April 6 April 11
Takayama April 16 April 21
Matsumoto April 12 April 17
Nagoya March 28 April 5
Yokohama March 28 April 5
Tokyo March 28 April 5
Sendai April 12 April 18
Hirosaki April 24 April 30
Hakodate May 3 May 7
Sapporo May 5 May 8

The data is from the Japan Weather Association and refers to Somei Yoshino cherry trees, except in the case of Naha (Hikanzakura).