Cherry blossom, or sakura, season in Japan is greatly celebrated, and unrivaled anywhere in the world. The importance of the cherry blossom, in Japanese culture goes back hundreds of years, and signifies the beauty and impermanence of life. It is also a time to celebrate new beginnings and hope for a bright future. Japanese school’s even begin their new school year in April, in keeping with that theme.
We were out of the country for most of sakura season last year, the window is very short- only about ten days, so we wanted to soak it all in this year. Our first stop was the famed Ueno Park, one of the more famous viewing spots in Tokyo. I loved the wreaths they had hanging.
The Japanese also celebrate hanami, during sakura season, which is basically a picnic/party under the blossoms. Hanami can get quite rowdy with all of the beer and sake drinking, I guess we will have to go in the evening next year for more entertainment!
These prime spots were all saved for groups to arrive later. Not sure on what that process entails, but in Japan, you could save a spot all day long (including a table in a mall food court or even Costco) with a towel, and it would be respected and untouched. Crime is so low, I’ve even seen people save tables with their purse, or shopping bags. Unbelievable.
Tama River Trail
About 20 minutes from our house is the Tama River, which also has a great walking/biking path along the river bank. They hold a cherry blossom festival that is pretty well known, so we headed there on a Saturday afternoon. There had been quite a few rainy days, and that can really shorten the life of sakura season.
Every Japanese festival has street food. We saw lots of people with these “sticks” and decided to check them out. They were fried, raw spaghetti noodles with either powdered sugar or salt. Interesting.
The last stop on our 2015 sakura tour, was to Shinjuku Gyoen. This is a very popular park in the heart of Shinjuku, and with over 300 cherry tree varieties in Japan, they have planted a good mix of late and early blooming trees, so the season lasts a bit longer.
Japanese trees are manicured to perfection. Every year they are trimmed back at the end of the season, and they come back fuller than ever in the summer. I see this all over the place, not just in parks.
I guess what surprised me the most, was that the cherry trees are everywhere in Japan, not just in special parks. They are literally everywhere…behind the train station, behind factories, lining parking lots, etc. The whole city is a blaze in pink. The base we live on is especially beautiful, too. This is the street behind my house.