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A guide to cherry blossom season in Japan

Published April 1st, 2013

 

It’s that time of year again! Time to hop off flights to Tokyo and Osaka with a spring in your step because the cherry blossoms are about to bloom. Up and down Japan, o-hanami parties will soon be in full swing, as hordes of Japanese and visitors alike take to the streets to celebrate the coming of Spring.

 

Nothing symbolises the blooming of Japan’s famous pale-pink cherry blossoms like the sakura zensen -  the so-called nightly cherry blossom forecast on the TV news which tracks the progress of the blossom front from the southern island of Okinawa all the way to northern Hokkaido.

 

And with the cherry blossom season lasting a mere one or two weeks, it’s no wonder the Japanese let their hair down and party hard underneath the pink petal-laden trees.

 

 

Hanami parties are a centuries-old tradition in Japan and a great way to meet the locals. Grab a picnic blanket and some food and join the party under the trees. With a joyous atmosphere in the air, it’s not uncommon for friendly locals to share their sake with newcomers in a spirit of community as the afternoon gives way to drunken revelry.

 

When dusk falls, towns all up and down Japan are spectacularly lit up by thousands of brightly coloured lanterns which flutter underneath the cherry blossoms in the cool spring breeze. Night-time cherry blossom parties are called yozakura and in places like Tokyo’s famous Ueno Park, it’s common to see thousands of revellers camped underneath the spectacularly-lit trees.

 

Yoshino in Nara Prefecture is regularly voted the best place in Japan to view cherry blossoms. Pilgrims have been travelling to Yoshino for centuries and have planted thousands of cherry trees over the years, making it the perfect place to start your cherry blossom viewing.

 

Sumida Park in Tokyo is another famous site for cherry blossoms, with the park packed every spring with party-goers making the most of the park’s scenic location on the banks of the picturesque Sumida River.

 

 

Cherry blossom season is also a great time to sample some unique Japanese food, as hundreds of stalls are set up in streets and parks around the country, selling dozens of takoyaki, yakitori, onigiri and oden-style dishes.

 

This year’s cherry blossom season was projected to start on March 25 in the south of Japan, but the height of the season is forecast for April 1. So there’s still enough time for you to hop on a flight and experience one of Japan’s most festive times of year; the unforgettable o-hanami season.

Mike Tuckerman

From Europe to Asia and many places in between, there's rarely a town or city I've not enjoyed exploring. When I'm not wandering the streets and discovering new destinations, you can usually find me hanging out with the locals at major sporting events.