Springtime in Japan means one thing and one thing only: cherry blossom season. Every springtime, the nation’s streets, gardens, public buildings and schools are decorated with the beautiful scents and colours of spring.
Everything takes on a delicate pinkish hue as the symbolic cherry trees spring into blossom and carpet the ground below in delicate cherry blossom snowflakes.
The Japanese cherry blossom starts flowering as early as late January in the southern regions around Okinawa. Here you’ll be one of the first to see ‘sakura’ (cherry blossoms) and in Okinawa the cherry trees are traditionally decorated with lanterns too.
As the cherry blossom season moves north, the progress of the ‘cherry tree front’ is eagerly tracked, just like leef-peepers who keep track of the turning tide of Autumn in New England, USA. By the end of March or the beginning of April, blossoming has spread to Kyoto and Tokyo.
Most schools and public buildings have cherry trees in front, so if you visit in season, it certainly won’t be hard to find a photo opportunity, whichever city you visit.
“Hanami” is the name for the old practice of picnicking under a blooming sakara or ume tree. At this time of the year you’ll find friends and colleagues getting out into parks to enjoy the canopy of blossoms with a picnic. It’s a traditional photo opportunity and one not to be missed!
The cherry blossoms have a special significance in Japanese culture with the short blossoming and fall of cherry trees being symbolic of mortality and the brevity of life. In times gone by, the Japanese government encouraged people to believe that fallen soldiers would be reincarnated in the cherry blossoms.
Ueno Park & Shinjuku Gyoen Park, Tokyo (late March to late April) – A beautiful (albeit likely crowded) cherry spot, you’ll find over 1,000 cherry trees all lit up at night so you can combine a viewing with a good night out on the town!
Senkoji Park, Hiroshima (early to mid-April) - whilst you’re there, make a visit to the moving Peace Museum which was built at the site of the only building to survive the impact of the atomic bomb.
Japan Mint, Osaka (mid to late April) – head to Osaka and you’ll find a whole 560m avenue of cherry trees.
Arashiyama, Tenryu-Ji Temple, Kyoto (late March to late April) – combine a visit to the magnificent cherry blossoms with a wander through Japanese bamboo and a climb up the Arashiyama mountains to see native Japanese macaques running free at the Iwatayama monkey park.
If you’d like to plan a tailor-made Japan holiday during cherry blossom season, there are plenty of trip ideas for you. You could consider a multi-stop ticket that allows you time to travel over land between Osaka and Tokyo, and experience the blossoms across the country, depending on your travel dates.
It’s a breeze to cover distances between cities in Japan with the country’s efficient bullet trains and a great value rail pass. If you’d like to plan a trip – give us a call for advice on +44 1273320580 or request a quote.