There’s no place like Japan during the cherry blossom festivals. Even in the most industrial and modern pockets of Tokyo, you’ll find at least a park or two blanketed in the warm, soft glow of pink flowers that cover the trees, the sidewalks, and passers-by.
During the spring, 花見 or “flower viewing” occurs in full spring. This festival practice is a traditional Japanese one that involves the quiet and serene viewing of cherry blossoms.
The first time I had the pleasure of experiencing Japan’s cherry blossom celebrations occurred several years ago after a particularly traumatic and exhausting year. I decided to take the plunge and travel to Japan for two weeks - partly as a vacation, partly as a way to escape my troubles, and partly to experience the country I had long planned on eventually living in.
I was surprised by how healing the mere act of being in Tokyo during the cherry blossom season would be for me. I felt at peace, and it was clear many other native Tokyo citizens felt the same way.
For me, it represented the balance of good and bad things in life - and the fact that life itself is a fleeting adventure with plenty of beauty to enjoy.
There are several ways to best explore the cherry blossoms in Japan. To start, be sure to travel to the island between the months of March and May when festivities are in full swing. One notable place that celebrates the cherry blossom festival in Ueno Park in the Ueno district of Taitō, Tokyo, Japan. Ueno Park is known for its 夜桜 or “night sakura” festival in which paper lanterns are hung around the park to provide a beautiful glow to the cherry blossoms in the dark. This outdoor activity is truly a gorgeous example of nature tourism in an urban setting, and I highly recommend it.
For my own outdoor trip to Japan during this time of year, I didn’t need a tour guide because I had been studying Japanese for some time. However, I highly recommend looking into city tour guides for foreigners to really get the most out of sightseeing during hanami.
When visiting Japan for the sakura festivals, there are a number of things you can expect regardless of the region you visit. To start, day trips can be quite crowded, so keep that in mind. In parks where celebrations are held, there will be tons of booths set up that sell copious amounts of sake and traditional food items such as kamaboko (pink fish cakes) and Temari sushi (sushi formed into cute little balls.) While the main attraction will be the blossoms themselves, you can also expect to view tea ceremonies and traditional performances.
The cherry blossom blooms no more than two weeks and represents the fleeting nature of beauty. For me, it represented the balance of good and bad things in life - and the fact that life itself is a fleeting adventure with plenty of beauty to enjoy.