This year 600 cherry blossom viewing spots in a few weeks could bring Japan’s economy up to $ 5.8 billion.
Cherry blossoms in full bloom across the country for a few weeks now are delivering huge economic benefits to Japan. An analysis from Kansai University estimates that 63 million people inside and outside Japan travel to see the cherry blossoms, spending about $ 2.7 billion (301 billion yen) during this period. While the flower season is on the top and the tourist arrivals increase sharply in the first two months of the year, it is likely that this year’s Japanese visitor volume will set a new record.
The Japanese government wants to attract 40 million foreign visitors by 2020, when it hosts the Olympics, up from a record 31.2 million in 2018. To reach the target, the country has loosened its policies. visas, investing in more infrastructure and reducing restrictions on low-cost air and sea. The number of low-cost airlines international flights per week has increased from under 20 in 2007 to almost 3,000 in 2018.
Tourists go to see the cherry blossoms. Photo: Bloomberg
The Bank of Japan is unhappy when the yen is weaker than a few years ago. However, it becomes an advantage that visitors want to prolong their vacation when coming to Japan. For the government, this is also an opportunity to boost economic growth and convince investors. According to Professor Katsuhiro Miyamoto – Kansai University, the total economic impact of cherry blossoms is about 5.8 billion USD.
Many companies actively take advantage of the “hanami” culture, which means that flower parties are held under the cherry blossom trees. Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Asahi launch products with a ‘sakura’ theme. UberEats launched a campaign to urge customers to use this service to order food delivered to the party tree.
Tokyo-based companies such as Nandemo Yutao take on the logistics of hanami parties. They charge 26 USD (3,000 yen) per hour of service, including tents, decorations, food and drinks. “I can manage up to 24 service points a day,” said Yuta Konno, owner of Nandemo Yutao, that the providers are also very competitive now.
High-class hanami party service in round tents in the set. Photo: Bloomberg
More upscale, the Chandon Blossom Lounge offers hanami party service with domed transparent tents, flat tables, heaters, snacks and champagne for $ 80 (9,000 yen) per hour. Some units also organize an indoor hanami with artificial grass, cherry blossom landscape is projected on the wall for guests’ comfort and safety. Takeshi Takeoka, director of Ikejiri House, said the demand for sakura-themed banquet rooms has increased by 50% compared to last year.
The image of cherry blossoms and the hanami party was strongly spread on Instagram. Immediately, it promotes the demand for flower viewing tourism of domestic and foreign guests. Japan is also one of Instagram’s most active markets, with the number of users doubling over the past two years to 29 million members.
The Japanese government makes full use of this advantage, especially looking for tourists for new and far away tourist destinations that are often overloaded. Last year, the National Tourism Organization of Japan teamed up with Instagram to create a campaign challenging users to share photos of cherry blossoms in obscure places. According to Instagram spokesperson in Japan – Ryoko Ichimura, 5 million foreign visitors have come to these new places to take photos and share again.
Many tourists have turned to tourist destinations outside of the big cities. In 2018, more than 40% of foreign tourists stayed at hotels outside of Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, according to the Japan Tourism Authority. Aomori, a remote village in northern Japan with just 1.3 million inhabitants but attracted 3.1 million visitors to see the cherry blossoms in 2018, according to Shoubunsha data. Earlier this year, Travel + Leisure magazine ranked Aomori as the top place to visit in April, when the flowers were in full bloom.
Currently in Tokyo, the city is still busy picking up visitors as the cherry blossoms will remain at their full bloom for a few more days, before the pink petals start to fall. Until then, the beauty of the flower season still attracts visitors by the grass, ground and river filled with petals, reminding of a billion dollar ‘miracle’ in just a few weeks.