No time of year excites the Japanese quite like spring, because it is sakura (cherry blossom) season. Across the country, people await the first blooms, which usually appear in the southern Okinawan islands by February, before spreading northwards, erupting in cities such as Kyoto, Tokyo and Hiroshima in late March and April; Hokkaido sees blossom into May.
Not only is this the prettiest time to be in Japan, it is among the most festive. Hanami (parties under the blossom) are widespread in city parks. Families and friends roll out their tarps and eat beneath the trees; stores even sell hanami bento boxes, which contain seasonal produce, pink-tinged dumplings and veg cut into blossom shapes.
Especially scenic sakura spots include Kyoto’s canal-side Philosopher’s Path, Mt Yoshino in Nara and Kumamoto Castle.