“Spring is in the air, flowers start to bloom the flowers in the trees.” When I think of spring, this song from Hallmark’s Timeless Tales Thumbelina pops into my head. Spring always makes me think of flowers and this leads me to think of spring in Japan.
Visiting Japan has always been a fond dream of mine, especially because I want to see the sakura or cherry blossoms bloom there. A friend once told me it’s a silly reason to want to go there just for the flowers when you can see the cherry blossoms in Washington. But I think that flower viewing feels more authentic in Japan because that’s where the sakura is originally from.
Cherry blossoms typically bloom all over Japan at the end of March till early in May. The flowers in Okinawa though bloom earlier, around the start of February. The Japanese always look forward to this event, paying close attention to the blossom forecast, which is announced by the weather bureau each year. When the flowering trees finally bloom, they hold a hanami or a flower viewing event during the day in parks where the cherry blossoms are. At night, some people hold a yozakura, which is what the hanami at night is called.
Experiencing spring in Japan wouldn’t be complete without being part of the hanami. But you don’t have to worry if you missed one flower viewing event since sakura blooms at different intervals in different parts of japan. Keep in mind that cherry blossoms are usually in bloom for only one week so make sure you’re able to squeeze in at least one hanami into your schedule. If you missed it in the area where you are staying, you can consider other options in other places.
If you are staying in Tokyo, you can take your pick from Ueno-onshi-koen Park, Chidori-ga-fuchi, or Hitsuji-yama Park, Chichibu. For the first two, cherry blossoms bloom in late March until early April. Ueno-onshi-koen Park is only 5 minutes away from Tokyo Station to Ueno Station if you use the JR Yamanote Line. Getting to Chidori-ga-fuchi will only take 20 minutes if you walk from Tokyo Station and 5 minutes if you walk from Tokyo Metro Kudanshita/Hanzomon Station. For the Hitsuji-yama Park, Chichibu, the blooming period usually ranges from the middle of April to the middle of May. It is also a bit farther compared to the first two parks. It takes an hour and 23 minutes from Ikebukuro (Tokyo) to Seibu Chichibu Station if you take the Seibu Ikebukuro Line.
If you’re staying in Hokkaido, you can visit Matsumae Park, which has some 10,000 cherry blossom trees–a dazzling display of 250 varieties when in full bloom. Flowering season is from late April to early May. In Kyoto, you can choose from Maruyama Park or Mt. Daigo-san. Estimated blooming time for the cherry trees in these areas are late March to early April.
Although I won’t be going to Japan for spring, I still hold that dream in my heart that someday I will be part of that crowd enjoying the lovely sight of cherry blossoms in full bloom.