With the coming of springtime, the whole of Japan, from Kyushu to Hokkaido, is thrown into chaos. One of the most magical moments of the year is about to happen: the blossoming of the cherry trees. They are a very popular attraction for family outings; but also, people from all over the world travel here to enjoy one of the most significant and wonderful events that Japanese nature has to offer.
But why cherry trees? As is often the case when it comes to Japanese culture, everything began in China. Indeed, during the Heian period (794-1191) many noble practices were imported, including that of observing flowers – and this is the origin of the term “Hanami”, which we will come to later. Actually the most favoured flowering tree was the plum tree, which over the centuries has been replaced by the cherry tree, or Sakura in Japanese. And today, observing these flowers has become a tradition in Japan, and is known as Hanami (literally, “flower viewing”). This term is used for being under the cherry trees, to admire their beauty and uniqueness.
Cherry blossom season varies, depending on the latitude; so the cherry trees on the island of Hokkaido in Northern Japan come into flower later than those in the more southerly regions.
In Tokyo, cherry trees bloom between the last week of March and the first week of April, so this is the best time to enjoy the city and its blossoms. In Tokyo there are plenty of places to have a hanami, that is, to admire the cherry blossoms. Here are some of the most famous.
During spring, Ueno Park is populated by thousands of people who come here with friends, family or co-workers to share picnics under the cherry blossoms.
The Yasukuni Shrine was established to commemorate those who have perished in wars. It can be reached via the Marunouchi Line at Otemachi station, or the Hanzomon Line at Kudanshita station – which is also the location of the Italian Institute of Culture.
Not far from Yasukuni Shrine is Chidorigafuchi Park, where among other things you can rent a pedal boat to admire the Sakura from the moat that surrounds the Imperial Palace. It is an incredible place for Hanami.
In the relaxing neighbourhood of Naka Meguro you can admire the cherry blossoms in a truly unique setting along the banks of the river Meguro.
Yoyogi Park is near Harajku station, just a short walk from Meiji-Jingu Temple. Here in the springtime, in addition to cosplay and rockabilly bands, you can enjoy the blossoms along with the thousands of Japanese youngsters who come here to picnic with their friends.