Cherry-blossom season is one of the best times to visit Japan. Here's how I make the most of it as an American who's lived here for 5 years.

  • Japan is recognized across the world for its stunning cherry blossoms that bloom every spring.

  • The sakura season, which peaks in March and April, attracts crowds of tourists.

  • Some of the best ways to see the flowers are by visiting Hamani festivals or walking along rivers.

There are plenty of iconic symbols that come to mind when I think of Japan — like towering pagodas and red torii gates. But the country has also become famous for its breathtaking cherry blossoms.

I moved from the US to Japan five years ago, and I've watched crowds of tourists flood the country to enjoy the annual sakura, or cherry blossom, season each spring.

It typically lasts from late March into early May, and the views really are priceless.

Here are my top tips for taking in the blooms like a local.

Pay attention to the sakura forecast.

park in japan in bloom during cherry blossom season
The trees only bloom for a short window, so you don't want to miss it. Abi

One of the reasons sakura is so beloved is its impermanence.

Cherry blossoms reach full bloom in just a few weeks and only stay in full bloom for about one or two weeks. If rain and strong winds coincide with this, the flowers could be completely gone in just a few days.

In order to witness peak blooming, I recommend referring to the sakura forecast calendar from the Japan Meteorological Corporation.

When American tourists think of spring, they typically picture April or May. But Japanese spring starts in early March.

The most recent forecast, released on February 22, estimates the peak bloom to be around March 21 in Tokyo and most of mainland Japan and between April 4 and 20 in most of northern Japan.

Hanami festivals are a great way to get the full sakura experience.

people packed in a street festival in japan during cherry blossom season
The Hanami Festival celebrates cherry-blossom season. Abi

Hanami festivals are held across Japan to celebrate sakura.

The largest are held in Tokyo's public parks, including Ueno Park, Yoyogi Park, and Shinjuku Gyoen. But there are also smaller festivals in Chidorigafuchi Greenway and Inokashira Park.

Locals typically bring a picnic and spend the entire day relaxing with their friends under the beautiful blossoms.

Most festivals also have special activities or attractions, like the cherry-blossom shrine at Ueno. And at night, the streets light up with glowing pink lanterns, making for another unique experience.

River walks are a great spot to see some of Tokyo's most famous cherry-blossom groves.

abi posing on a bridge over a river in japan during cherry blossom season
You can walk along the water checking out all the blooms.Abi

If you're looking for a more active experience, I recommend checking out one of the many cherry-blossom groves located along the rivers in Tokyo. You can walk along the water while admiring the blooms.

Nakameguro is one of the most popular and well-known sakura viewing spots, but the crowds can be overwhelming. Get there early and avoid weekends if you don't want to be packed like sardines on the street.

For a quieter spot, check out the Bokutei Sakura Festival along the Sumida River.

Outside of Tokyo, the Ōoka River Promenade in Yokohama and the Shukugawara Moat in Kawasaki are beautiful. Plus, they're less than an hour from Tokyo by train.

There are so many delicious treats available during sakura.

hand holding up a fish shaped treat in japan
The Hanami Festivals typically have booths selling different treats and meals. Abi

There are plenty of beloved Japanese snacks for sale at cherry-blossom festivals, like candied apples and yakisoba noodles.

Don't forget to bring cash as many booths don't accept cards.

But beyond the festivals, it's really hard to miss all the gentei, or seasonal, items available across the country. The limited-edition experiences, snacks, and goods are everywhere.

Starbucks Japan is especially known for its seasonal Frappuccino. This year's drink, the Hanami Dango Frappuccino, takes its color inspiration from the blossoms.

There's no right way to enjoy the cherry blossoms, but I try to make the most of the season.

abi posing for a photo in front of a blooming cherry blossom tree in japan
I look forward to cherry-blossom season every year. Abi

As an American expat and a cherry-blossom enthusiast, I can never get enough of sakura.

Even if I'm not going to a festival or river walk, I take the time to enjoy any blooming trees I pass in my neighborhood or along city streets. I'll never miss an opportunity to snap a picture and take a deep breath of the sweet fragrance.

Although it takes a little bit of advanced planning, cherry-blossom season is an incredible time to visit Japan. I highly recommend that every experiences it at least once.

Business Insider agreed to withhold Abi's last name for privacy reasons. We have verified her identity.

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