Japan: The Fleeting Sakura Season

Winter this year in Japan was milder than usual so everyone was a little surprised when spring seemed to show up late.  In Japan, people associate the blossoming of the cherry blossom trees, or sakura, with the start of spring.  People will typically have hanami, a flower viewing picnic, to celebrate the good weather and gorgeous trees.  Usually hanami is a rowdy day-drinking party that lasts all day, starting at around 10 am but sometimes earlier during the peak of the season so a good picnic space can be saved.  This year the beginning of sakura season also happened to come along with a big rain spell.  Fortunately the rain did not wash all the buds away and I was able to visit a few parks to view sakura.  One thing I noticed is that, around Tokyo, most of the time the sakura blossoms are white.  I had originally associated sakura with pale pink petals but I guess those are less common.

Before the official start of the season, my family came to visit me in Japan and we visit Shinjuku Gyoen.  This was the only place I was able to find pink sakura.

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My first hanami was cold and rainy but we had a really good spot under a tree in full bloom since not many people went out to the parks that day.

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Hanami with my acroyoga group

The second park I tried going to was Showa Kinen Park.  This park is supposed to have 1,000 sakura trees and is about an hour outside of Tokyo.  Unfortunately, as we were told on our way out, the sakura were expected to bloom in this park the week after.

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They were preparing for a flower festival that started next week though so it wasn’t a big loss.

The majority of sakura appear along the rivers.  The main site for this is at Meguro River a little south of Shibuya.  While the sakura trees are in bloom there is a festival set up along the river with tons of food vendors which draws huge crowds.

DSC_0099.JPGWhile Meguro River was very nice,  I thought that the best spot I visited was at Kanda River, a river slightly north of my dorm.  There is a small festival hosted and much fewer people.  The spot isn’t widely known about or publicized which I thought made it nicer.  Without the huge crowds I could walk and enjoy the scenery at my own pace .

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And finally, on what was supposed to be the last good night for sakura viewing because of bad weather coming, I went back to Meguro River but this time for the night view.  Certain areas with plenty of sakura trees will stay open into the evening and put on light displays to make the blossoms pop just a bit more.

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All the lanterns along the river were lit up.
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Pink lights finally give the cherry blossoms a pink color instead of white.

I’ve always wanted to experience sakura season in Japan and I’m so glad I finally got to see all the trees.  Hopefully, I’ll be back for many more seasons.

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