Experience Cherry Blossom Season in Japan
A symbol of hope, purity and new beginnings- cherry blossom season, otherwise known as Sakura Matsuri, is a big deal in Japan. In the weeks prior to the arrival of Sakura Matsuri, all eyes are on the dedicated forecasts, as an entire nation waits in anticipation. Every year, predictions are made as to the blossom’s arrival, and all of a sudden, the weather forecast becomes a must- see. Cherry blossom trees play a prominent role in Japanese culture, as these blossoming beauties have long been featured in design, and are symbolic of Japan the world over. Every year, thousands of tourists flock to the streets of Japan in hope of catching a glimpse of this natural phenomenon. Although many venture out of the city to rural parks and mountain ranges, staying in Tokyo is as safer bet as any. There are a number of hotspots throughout this brightly lit city that are sure to delight the eyes and entertain the lenses of all who pass through.
A custom that dates back over 1000 years, Hanami, meaning ‘flower viewing’ is the traditional Japanese practice where families gather for parties and picnics underneath the trees to welcome the beginning of spring. After three months of chilling winter weather, the arrival of the cherry blossom is a welcomed site and this change in season is wholeheartedly celebrated year in, year out. Hanami is a truly Japanese experience to be enjoyed whilst in the city, and with some careful planning, your trip will go off without a hitch.
Where to go:
Shinjuku Gyeon Park.
Home to the residence of the Naito Family, what once stood as an imperial garden was transformed into a national garden in 1949. A visit during March to late April is sure to prove fruitful as the landscape is awash with the vibrancy of over 1000 trees. The park is just a 10-minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station.
The banks of the Sumida river
These sloping banks are an incredible site to behold as a flowing sea of cherry blossom completely covers the grass beneath. In fact, they’re deemed so special that they have their own unique name; Bokutei. Only 10 lone cherry blossom trees were planted here back in 1717, but over the years, people have planted more and more, and now this number has grown steadily to a mass of 1000 trees lining either side.
One of the more peaceful places to enjoy Sakura Matsuri, there are only a few hundred cherry blossom trees in this sprawling, verdant park. The bright and budding cherry blossom is best viewed from the pond, so hire a boat, and enjoy an afternoon spent amongst utter tranquillity. The reflection in the water is picture-perfect. To access Inokashira Park, take the subway to Kichijoji Station.
Where to stay:
Book yourself into a hotel that’s in close proximity to one of the few parks in Tokyo that boast a cherry blossom lined landscape. Better yet, book yourself into a room with a view. The Palace Hotel Tokyo offers panoramic views of the Imperial Palace Gardens. During Sakura Matsuri, the gardens are home to inspiring scenes of flowing pink and white amongst striking green. The Palace Hotel Tokyo is an award-winning, Five-Star hotel in Tokyo offering contemporary rooms with distinctive Japanese touches throughout. It’s home to Japan’s first Evian Spa and provides guests with a luxury experience set in the heart of Tokyo, amid an exceptionally peaceful, moat-side location.
When to go:
The cherry blossom of Japan can bloom any time between mid-March to early April. A two week stay should be sufficient to catch either the tail end or if you’re lucky enough, the height of the celebrations, but keep a watchful eye on the forecast, as every year is different. These spectacular displays only last for a week or so, so make sure you plan ahead.