If you want to view Cherry Blossom in 2017, “Now” is the best time to book your tickets and hotels. Last year (Dec 2016) when I was planning about my 2 weeks Solo Backpacking trip to Japan I was pretty apprehensive about When, where and How to plan my trip. Information about Japan is still limited in English websites. I struggled to get information by converting a few Japanese websites/blogs to English using browser plugins. Though Sakura bloom time is variable but stillI needed the best guess to book airlines ticket. According to my friends in Japans, hotels on popular booking websites like bookings.com were costlier. I will try to clear up some air around these questions.
What is the Best time to view Sakura or Cherry Blossom?
The best time to view Sakura varies every year. It depends on how fast or slower weather is changing. If winter extends, Sakura bloom is delayed and vice versa. Sakura bloom doesn’t happen at once in all Japanese prefectures. It travels from Northern cities to South. For example, Sakura arrives first in Tokyo and then in Kyoto. If only Sakura is on your mind, you may plan to travel to Tokyo first and then to Kyoto, finally exiting from Osaka airport.
Best time to view Sakura depending on last few years is 20 March to 5 April. Sakura flowers blooms for well over five – six days, peaking on the third day. Ideally, there is no fixed or best time to book tickets so many people (like me) delay bookings tickets until last moment. It will be more expensive obviously but it definitely guarantees to view the Sakura bloom.
I would highly recommend following http://www.japan-guide.com/ for estimated Sakura season arrival time. They have best forecasts about season changes and Sakura arrival timing. They also keep updating the timing of weather changes is faster or slower than estimated.
What are the best places to view Sakura in Kyoto?
Here is my list of best places to view Sakura bloom in Kyoto. Please note there are many more places suggested to see in Kyoto but for Sakura viewing I found these places to be excellent. Especially night illumination at selected places
Garden of Heian Shrine
Where to Stay in Kyoto?
The center of all best places to see in Kyoto are near to Eastern Kyoto. Kiyomizudera, Higashiyama , Gion, Shijo Dori, Philopher’s Path, Kodaiji Temple, Heian Shrine, Yasaka Shrine, Maruyama Park etc all lie in Eastern Kyoto. So staying in Eastern Kyoto is what i suggest. It will greatly reduce travel time and you can be in market or Temples till late night. If you are travelling with family, it will be great to book hotels in advance. Kyoto gets pretty crowded in Sakura season.
If you want to read and see a detailed report from each of these places check this link