Cherry blossom season in Japan generally begins in late March.
But you don’t have to wait that long to check out the year's first blossoms.
Travelers eager for an early look at Japan’s national flower -- the cherry blossom (sakura) -- can head for Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost prefecture. Thanks to Okinawa’s warmer temps, the pretty bell-like flowers start appearing on cherry trees from mid-January to mid-February.
Sakura festivals are held all over Okinawa, allowing families to take part in “hanami,” or flower viewing.
Blooming periods vary year to year and the season is short.
Though the year's cherry blossom party is already drawing to a close in some parts of the prefecture, there are still places where you can check out sakura in their full, pink glory.
Among the best is the Naha Sakura Matsuri cherry blossom festival, which runs from February 12-16 in Yogi Park in Naha City. Naha is the capital of Okinawa and the largest city in the prefecture.
Yogi Park is 15 minutes from Naha airport. There are nearly 400 cherry blossom trees along the river, making it a great place for a walk if you can manage to pull your eyes away from your camera.
Also in Naha, the Manko Sakura Matsuri cherry blossom festival will take place from February 8-9 at Manko Park.