Sakura, or cherry blossom season is fast approaching with Japan’s renowned national flower expected to burst into bloom in late March this year.
Every year, thousands of people make the pilgrimage to the country to witness one of nature’s most colourful indications that spring has arrived.
The blooms last around one week, however, in the colder regions of the country they will begin to flower about a month later.
The season coincides with Hanami — literally cherry-blossom viewing festival in Japanese.
For Hanami, the Japanese celebrate by eating and drinking under the cherry blossoms. Thousands of people flock to Japan’s public places to socialise. The sake will be flowing — cheers in Japanese is Kanpai!
Although the flowers can be seen across the country, the blooms do not last long. It is best to plan your trip to make sure you are able to observe this spectacle of Japan’s elusive natural beauty.
For those wanting to stay near the hustle and bustle of the big city, Shinjuku Gyo-en in the heart of Tokyo is home to more than 1,000 cherry trees. The park has both early and late blooming trees — the location is perfect for those who arrive a bit too early or late for the main bloom.
Ueno Tosho-gu is also in the capital and boasts a lantern-lit canal lined with cherry trees. This shrine-turned-park boasts several outdoor food and drink stalls, making for a great, if low-key, night out. One favourite is Yakitori, which is meat — usually chicken but pork and beef can be common as well — grilled over an open flame.
If you’d like to travel from Tokyo, Hirosaki Castle offers some of the best views of Sakura blossoms in the country. It is home to more than 2,600 Cherry trees as well as various moats to travel by boat on the castle grounds.
Travellers to Hirosaki can stay at Hotel Jogakura which is styled like a European lodge that has a sauna, natural hot springs for bathing and traditional Japanese cuisine. Located at the base of Mount Hakkoda, they can even arrange ski trips in season.
Although the hotel is about an hour’s drive from the famed Sakura blossoms of Hirosaki, they will help you arrange a private car to the town and this mountain retreat is well worth the trip for its secluded luxury.
Heading to the south of the Island, Osaka is one of Japan’s best cities to catch the Sakura blooms. Ryokuchi-Koen Park, in the north of the city, offers some of the best views. It boasts an open-air museum of Japanese farmhouses, in addition to its cherry trees.
This park will be quite crowded, expect to share some Sake with the locals celebrating Hanami.
The weather in Osaka is quite warm, so the flowers are only in bloom for approximately a week. You must be very lucky or plan your trip accordingly to see the Sakura in Japan’s third city.
Sakura, and the accompanying Hanami, are ancient practices steeped in tradition that have been given a modern twist. You won’t regret celebrating like a local in one of Japan’s many public spaces while viewing the iconic Sakura season for yourself.