Japanese Sakura (cherry blossom) season in Tokyo

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Cherry blossom, or sakura

One of the reasons I chose Japan as my destination was because my travel dates coincided with the start of the cherry blossom season.

The blossom only flowers for a couple of weeks, although travellers who arrive too early or too late for Tokyo’s display can travel North or South to see it in other locations in Japan. In total you have from February to May.

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I was a little early in Kyoto; the blossom was only just starting

In Tokyo, the blossom normally appears in early April; by February the internet is able to predict more precise dates. This year was a little early, which worked perfectly for me.

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Viewing blossom around the imperial palace

Viewing sakura is immensely popular in Japan. You need to be prepared for hordes and hordes of people to be joining you for your viewing (actually you need to be prepared for hordes of people wherever you go in Tokyo).

The sakura and Japanese culture

IMG_6027There are plenty of countries to see spring blossom, of course, but it was the cultural significance of seeing it in Japan that appealed to me.

In Japan, sakura represents the fragility of life (like the cherry blossom life is beautiful but over very quickly).

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Blossom connected foods and drinks start to appear and blossom-inspired decorations adorn the shopping areas.  You can get tea made from blossom, called sakurayu, sakura onigiri (rice balls with sakura) or sakura anpan (bread with bean paste and decorated with sakura) and undoubtedly many other things that I just didn’t happen to spot. Pink is everywhere.

Hanami, or blossom viewing

One popular activity is to picnic in the park under the blossoms. Don’t expect to turn up at lunchtime and grab a space; the serious blossom-watchers will have unrolled their tarpaulin sheets and installed someone to reserve the spot from early in the morning.

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Ueno park, around 11AM

The Japanese have a word for viewing the blossom: Hanami.  If you do your blossom viewing at night there is a word for that too: yozakura.  

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If you find yourself viewing plum blossom instead (an easy mistake to make) there is a word for that too: umemi.  Plum blossom comes in pink, white and also purple.  Cherry blossom doesn’t come in purple so if the flowers you are looking at are purple then it is plum – not cherry – blossom.

I got together with a group of avid sakura enthusiasts and we made up a little bento box to take to the local park. In typical Japanese fashion, two people were sent to the park at 8AM to reserve a picnic spot.

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My Bento box, containing Onigiri (or Japanese rice balls) a salad, tempura and some tamagoyaki, a Japanese omelet cooked in a square pan, layered and then cubed.

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great picnic spot

4 replies »

  1. Hello Sarah. Beautiful photos and I had forgotten all about the square omelettes then cut up!! I saw them bring made and even that has an art to it. I hope all is well. I’m over in Australia in February next year, but I guess you will be long gone by then. Safe travels xx

    • Hi, yes we watched it being done and then tried it ourselves. Mine fell apart, but once it was cut up it looked ok.
      Great that you’re going to Australia; I remember you saying about it ages ago but didn’t know if things had changed.
      I guess you/’re going to Sydney?
      I’ve no idea what I’ll be doing by then. I keep looking for loopholes that I can get to stay here but we will see.
      Hope it’s all going well
      xx

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