Lonely Planet Writer

The Japanese cherry blossom forecast for 2018 has just been released

Japan’s iconic cherry blossom blooms draw in travellers from all around the world each spring. But planning a trip around something as fickle as the start of a season can be tough. Thankfully, the Japan Meteorological Corporation (JMC) has begun to release its 2018 cherry blossom forecasts.

Himeji Castle with beautiful cherry blossom in spring season. Image by ©Richie Chan/Shutterstock

The forecasts try to predict when cherry blossoms – known as sakura – flower and when they will reach will full bloom at around 1,000 different viewing locations around the country. Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, is a beloved Japanese custom that draws massive crowds outdoors to take in the ephemeral beauty of the blossoms.

Dango, a Japanese dumpling and sweet, in front of sakura. Image by ©ntrirata/Getty Images

Since the beginning of the season can be unpredictable, the forecast is updated frequently through the year. The second forecast for 2018 was released on 1 February. Currently, blooms are expected in to begin on 20 March in Tokyo, with the full bloom reached on 28 March.

On Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture, flowers are expected to start showing up around 3 May, and hit full bloom on 6 May. Meanwhile, blooms in major cities on Japan’s main island of Honshu will come a bit earlier than in the north. Kyoto will see blooms around 27 March and reach its full heights on 4 April, while Osaka’s bloom is expected to come a day earlier, on 26 March, and peak on 3 April.

Nara, Japan at Koriyama Castle in the spring season. Image by ©ESB Professional/Shutterstock

The JMC says it has developed its own method for forecasting flowering and bloom dates, based on existing research, previous blooms, and temperatures from the fall and winter, as the buds of the blossoms are formed in the summer of the previous year.

The forecast helps gives travellers a sense of when they might catch one of Japan’s most stunning natural displays. But, since nature is anything but predictable, checking the forecast often can help make sure you see the blossoms at their best.