The Cherry Blossom Front in Sakura, Japan
Sakura is a bloom that has inheritably captured the heart and soul of a nation! These blooms come at a time of year that brings on a melancholy feeling amongst its people. As a foreigner living in Japan, I questioned how one flower could be capable of this feeling, until I saw the fluffy pink petals for myself!
Sakura marks the end and beginning of the fiscal and schooling year. It also marks the change of season from winter to spring. Typically, the season starts as early as February in the sub-tropical southern islands of Okinawa, extending through May in the northern island of Hokkaido. The season in most large cities like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka can be from late March to early April.
The ‘Cherry Blossom Front,’ as it’s known, runs from south to north Japan. Understandably, weather plays a critical part both in Sakura’s arrival and duration, which can be as short as a few days. Arrive too early and all you will see are buds, and if too late, the petals are already being swept up!
You can view the stunning blooms practically anywhere in Japan – nearly every neighborhood has its own blossom ‘claim to fame.’ The most popular viewing spots are prepared with hanging lanterns, food and drink stalls and numerous gallons of ‘sake.’ The best Sakura viewing spots in Tokyo with a vast quantity of trees for that wow effect include:
- Ueno Park
- Shinjuku Gyoen Park
- Yoyogi Park
- Sumida Riverwalk
- The Imperial Palace – Chidorigafuchi
My favorite spot is just a short walk from my home – the Meguro River. With 800 trees lining both sides of the river, a pink stream is created post bloom!
Nighttime viewing in particular has a special name, ‘yozakura.’ I find it far more spectacular than the daytime viewing. However, my tip for the best viewing experience is to go at early morning before sunrise when the revealers from the previous evening’s ‘hanami’ parties are still sleeping!
A few other travel planning tips I recommend:
- Book early! This is peak season in Japan as it coincides with spring vacation.
- Be Flexible! This is nature and naturally unpredictable – so be prepared to vary your travel plans. Culture, food, and sightseeing can keep you amused whilst waiting for the blooms.
- Domestic travel is a breeze with the Shinkansen– a bullet train that travels upwards of 285km with connections throughout the country.
- If you can’t make it during April, Sakura trees are also spectacular to view as they transition from summer to fall in November. The vibrant reds and burnt orange leaves provide another awe inspiring, picturesque backdrop.
Do you have a favorite viewing spot, or need more activity suggestions while waiting for the blooms? Tweet us at @HiltonSuggests!