Travelling to Japan? Try and time your visit with the cherry blossom season. Even if you’re not big on nature, this is something you’ve got to see.
Be prepared to forget your camera is even in your hands as you stand entranced by the beauty of these blossoms. Watch cities disappear under canopies of colour and national parks transform into spaces so surreal, you’ll think last night’s sake got the better of you.
Typically, the blossoms bloom somewhere between late March and early May. Part of their magic is that they’re only in bloom for a week or two – less if there are strong winds or heavy rain. Blossoms vary slightly depending on the tree variety. The most common is the pretty Somei yoshino, a small white flower with five delicate petals. You’ll also find yellow, pink and green blossoms throughout the country. Trees in the south typically bloom before the north – thank you temperate weather.
You’ll find all sorts of celebrations wrapped up in the blooming of the cherry blossom. The collective shindig is known as Hanami, which translates literally to ‘viewing flowers’. It encompasses all sorts of things: tea ceremonies, picnics, barbeques, sports and performing arts, all under canopies of blossom. It’s the perfect time of year to admire the Japanese landscape, taste local delights and celebrate with young and old alike. Over one thousand years old, this celebration is very much a highlight on the calendar – and one you won’t want to miss.
Beautiful cherry blossoms of Tokyo – photo by Richard Mouritzen
Top cherry blossom spots in east Japan:
Inuyama-jo Castle (south bank of the Kiso-gawa River)
Address: 65-2 Inuyama-kita-koken, Inuyama, Aichi
Getting there: Just a short walk from Inuyama Station (Meitetsu Line).
Address: Takato-machi, Kami-Ina-gun, Nagano
Getting there: Jump on a Takato-bound bus from JR Ina-shi Station.
Address: Taito-ku, Tokyo
Getting there: 5 min walk from JR Ueno Station (Yamanote Line).
Top cherry blossom spots in west Japan:
Address: Yoshino-cho, Yoshino-gun, Nara
Getting there: Take the Yoshino Ropeway (aerial tramway!!) from Yoshino Station (Kintetsu Yoshino Line) to Yoshino-yama Station.
Daigo-ji Temple (Mt. Kasatori-yama)
Address: 22 Daigo-higashi-oji-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto
Getting there: A short walk from Daigo-ji Station (Subway Tozai Line).
Address: 1-1 Honmaru, Kumamoto
Getting there: 15 min tram ride from JR Kumamoto Station to Kumamotojo-mae Station, then a 10 minute walk.
* Himeji Castle photo by Paul Lumbewe, for the Intrepid Photography Competition.