Springtime in Japan.
It is a magical time to experience this incredible country. The entire length and breadth of Japan is swathed in soft pink petals from the middle of March in the south through to early May in the north.
Cherry blossoms – called “sakura” in Japanese – are a national icon and are loved by locals and visitors alike. “Hanami“, or Cherry Blossom Viewing, is something all Japanese embrace with a passion when the blooms are out. Find your favourite tree, gather your nearest and dearest on a blue tarpaulin and enjoy a feast of cherry blossom-inspired delicacies, sushi, snacks and sake while you bask in the beauty of these fragile flowers.
The blossoms come out in stages, with each phase considered remarkable for its own reasons. The bloom is even reported on news bulletins alongside the weather report so that you know exactly what percentage the bloom is at and what the forecast for the blossoms is in each part of Japan.
When they reach full bloom they will only last for about a week before their small, round petals start fluttering to the ground. Some people argue that this final stage is when the cherry blossoms are at their most beautiful. For many Japanese people, the fragility of the cherry blossom and its brief but beautiful existence is a symbol for human life – hence they celebrate and cherish the beauty of the sakura while it lasts.
These are some images from my first time seeing the cherry blossoms (2001).
What do I love about the cherry blossom? I love that a simple flower can evoke such beauty, joy, enthusiasm and passion from people. It brings friends, families and strangers together as they enjoy the ceiling of dusky pinks from below. It brings cities and towns to life, with castles and palaces ablaze, food stalls lining the streets and throngs of people amongst it all, be it the middle of the day or late into the night. I love that this flower is so important to an entire culture that they produce an entire range of food and drinks especially for this time of year.
Below are some photos from last year’s Cherry Blossom tour that I led to Japan (2013) .
Cherry blossom viewing in Japan? Make sure you put it on your bucket list.
x Sonia x
For more information on when and where this year’s bloom will occur, see the report from JNTO here.