Tips for cherry blossom viewing in Japan

photo by Adam Fletcher on Flickr

Cherry blossoms, or sakura, are one  of the most famous symbols of Japan, and quite possibly the favorite flower of many Japanese. The soft pink petals of the sakura flowers announce the arrival of spring, and the time of the year when you can spend time outside, admiring the beauty of nature. Cherry trees grow all over Japan, and while the precise time of the year when they bloom depends on the weather and the altitude, one thing all cherry trees in Japan have in common is their power to attract the gaze of anyone who passes by them. When the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, the Japanese organize hanami, flower viewing parties attended by family, friends or coworkers.  If you happen to visit Japan in spring, make the most of your trip with these tips for cherry blossom viewing in Japan.

Pick the time

photo by Cyril Bele on Flickr

Cherry blossoms are beautiful but temporary, and delaying your trip by even a few days can ruin your plans to see the pink sakura at the height of its glory. Since many Japanese travel to the best cherry blossom viewing spots, it is necessary to know when the trees will bloom. The Japanese Meteorological Agency forecasts the dates when cherry trees bloom each year. In parks for example, all cherry trees will bloom at the same time, but if you visit a mountain area like Yoshinoyama, you will be able to see the flowers for several weeks, while the blossoms ‘travel’ up the slope.

Pick a spot

photo by CK Tse on Flickr

Great care is given by Japanese when choosing a spot for a hanami viewing party, and often people go out to save a spot the day before. Even companies might send out employees to reserve a spot before the rest of the party arrives. City parks in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and other large cities tend to be very crowded at this time of the year, and people spend long hours under the trees, sitting on blankets, eating and drinking. Although you can admire the blossoms even by just walking on a park’s alleys, if you want a proper hanami, you should pack a lavish lunch and a blanket. In Tokyo, some of the most famous cherry blossom viewing spots are Ueno Park, Shinjuku Park and Yoyogi Park. If you want to have your hanami in some of these popular spots, then you should definitely reserve a spot, seeing as some people pick their before 8 in the morning! Hanami picnics can last well into the night, and in many parks colorful lanterns are hung out – and the soft light in combination with the blossoms is truly amazing!

 

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