Cherry blossom season
As we set our sights on cooler days and an approaching winter, the northern hemisphere is emerging from the fog and embracing the life and colour of spring.
In Japan, the arrival of spring heralds the beloved cherry blossom (sakura) season, where delightful pink cherry blossoms flower throughout the country. Japan’s southern island of Kyushu typically sees its first blossoms in late March before they travel north to bloom up in Hokkaido by early May.
Cherry blossom season is widely celebrated in Japan and an example of its culture’s reverence for nature and seasonal symbolism. Festivals are held throughout the country to mark cherry blossom season and ‘hanami’ parties, where people gather to view the blossoms and socialise, are popular.
We’ve picked some idyllic spots around Japan where you can view cherry blossoms this season along with typical blossom times. Keep in mind the cherry blossom season is short, with flowers reaching their full bloom within a week of opening before they begin floating to the ground around a week later.
Around 1,600 cherry blossom trees can be found on Miyajima, an island in Hiroshima Bay. Just a short ferry ride from Miyajimaguchi station or accessed by direct boat from Hiroshima, the island is renowned for its beautiful forests, wandering deer and roaming monkeys. A floating orange torii, a gate typically found at the entrance of a Shinto shrine, sits in the water of Hiroshima Bay and is a Miyajima icon. The striking orange torii makes for a wonderful contrast against the masses of soft pink cherry blossoms that blanket the island – a great holiday snap!
Blossom time: late March/early April
Kyoto’s famous Philosopher’s Walk runs from Ginkaku-ji to Nanzen-ji and is a peaceful canal-side walk that winds through the city past local temples and shrines. In spring, cherry blossom trees lining the canal burst with snowy pink colour and make the 30 minutes or so it takes to walk the canal a dreamy experience. The stone path gets its name from Nishida Kitaro, an influential Japanese philosopher who was said to practise meditation while walking along the path on his way to Kyoto University.
Blossom time: early April
Japan’s Imperial Palace sits at the centre of Tokyo’s bustling metropolis, surrounded by water-filled moats, lush gardens and pleasant parklands. Parts of this urban oasis are open to the public throughout the year and in April, people flock to view the hundreds of cherry blossom trees that line the north-eastern moat, known as Chidorigafuchi. This cherry tree-lined moat is one of the most famous blossom viewing spots in the city and viewers can hire boats to sail along the moat. At night, the cherry blossom trees are illuminated making for a hauntingly beautiful hanami experience.
Blossom time: early April
Fuji Five Lakes
This decorative five storied pagoda juxtaposed with the softly rising distant peak of Mt Fuji inspires photographers all year round. In sakura season however, when clouds of snowy white and pink cherry blossoms fill the landscape, the view is gorgeous and makes for some wonderfully stereotypical shots of the Japanese landscape. The pagoda is part of the Arakura Sengen Shrine, built as a peace memorial in 1963.