One of Japan’s main attractions is its cherry blossom, or sakura, season in the spring. People from all over the globe visit the country to witness the beauty of the white or pink trees. There are over 100 varieties of cherry blossoms and some even produce cherries that can be eaten.
The cherry blossom has become a national symbol of Japan because of it’s popularity. It is even printed on the 100 and 1,000 yen currency. During the season, stores and restaurants sell sakura themed items.
Cherry blossoms are also seen around the world in such places as Paris, India, and the U.S.
Cherry blossoms are only in full bloom for about one week, depending on the weather. The temperature, amount of rain or wind can shorten its life. This is significant in the Japanese culture because it represents how beautiful, precious and short life is.
Picnic mat (large tarp), food, drinks, friends and cherry blossoms. These are staples of hanami, meaning “flower viewing”, a picnic party under the trees. Hanami happens in gardens and parks across the country. The best places can get very crowded during full bloom so it is common for a person to save a spot with their mat early in the morning and wait hours until the party starts.
When and Where to See Sakura in Japan
There are early bloomers of sakura that begin to show in January and February.
Many trees have started to bloom this week! Since there are 8 regions and 47 prefectures of Japan, I will highlight a few of the popular places many people go when they visit the Tokyo area.
Tokyo (First bloom-March 21, Best Viewing-March 27-April 4)
Shinjuku Gyoen- This park is a 10 minute walk from Shinjuku station and costs 500 yen to enter. It is a great location for hanami but alcohol is not allowed.
Ueno Park- One of the most popular spots for parties so expect very large crowds.
Meguro River- About 800 trees line this river that stretches for miles. It isn’t good for hanami but is an amazing sight, especially when the trees are illuminated at night.
Kyoto (First bloom-March 25, Best Viewing-April 4-10)
Philosopher’s Path- Located beside a canal and connects Ginkakuji to Nanzenji, the path is lined with hundreds of trees.
Maruyama Park- Kyoto’s most popular public park for hanami. A large weeping sakura is the center attraction and is lit at night.
Osaka (First bloom-March 27, Best Viewing-April 4-10)
Osaka Castle- Over 4,000 trees against the lovely backdrop of the castle tower is worth a trip!
Kema Sakuranomiya Park- The 5,000 sakura in this park appear to go on forever. There is a lot of open space for hanami and you can enjoy the view of the trees from the promenade or from a ship on the river.
I will share another post, with more pictures, once the blossoms are in full bloom!