If you're planning a trip to see Hokkaido's cherry blossoms this year, you had better start moving. Sapporo recorded its first bloom on April 22, making it the second earliest blossoming since equivalent data became available in 1953.

According the the Japanese National Tourism Organization (JNTO), the Sapporo cherry blossoms will reach full bloom by April 29, over a week earlier than average, with estimated best viewing times from April 29 to May 6.

Hokkaido is home to some of the best hanami (cherry blossom viewing) sites in the country, with Matsumae Park (Sapporo), Goryokaku Fort (Hakodate) and Otaru Park (just a short drive from Niseko) among the most popular. Cherry blossom viewing in Japan was named by Business Insider this year as one of the "100 trips everyone should take in their lifetime".

Hokkaido cherry blossom forecast