I arrived in Japan in late June – just in time for the country’s infamous rainy season where the ocean invades the land. So of course I had to wait a whole nine months before I would get to experience the most iconic event in Japan – the blooming of thousands of cherry blossoms (or sakura). So when the national sakura chart came out detailing the dates and places of the blooming flowers I was, needless to say, excited.
The cherry blossom season normally starts in Okinawa around February/March before travelling up the country to Hokkaido in May. So as winter shifts into spring, cherry blossoms in every park and street corner in every city come alive with white and pink flowers. This event is so spectacular that there are even sakura viewing parties that celebrate the blooming cherry blossoms. These are known as hanami in Japan and involve the gathering of people for picnics and drinking wherever the cherry blossoms may be found.
Although I had seen some bright pink cherry blossoms in Atami before I spotted them in Tokyo, my first actual hanami celebration took place along the street known as Sakura-Dori near Tokyo Station. Some coworkers and I grabbed a beer from the local convenience store and stood under the beautifully white sakura blossoms that had sprung up literally overnight. Of course there were also plenty of other people on the street – most of them being business men and women who were checking out the blossoms before making their way back to their homes.
If you’re in a more romantic mood, then you can always go to Meguro and Naka-Meguro rivers where white and pink cherry blossoms line the canal and are lit up by lanterns and flood lights. Eating and drinking also play an integral part of the hanami festivals, therefore there are many food and drink stalls running up and down Naka-Meguro River, serving many unique and popular foods.
If you want more of a picnic vibe, then you can always grab a blue tarp, pack a picnic basket, and invite your friends to relax under the beautiful blooming sakura in the park of your choice!
Unfortunately, the sakura season is very short-lived. Just as suddenly as the blossoms appear, they disappear. This is because mid-spring in Japan is very windy and rainy, causing the delicate cherry blossom petals to rain down in buckets. In fact, the cherry blossoms only last about one or two weeks in each place – so if you blink, you might miss it.
But somehow this fleeting beauty is what makes the sakura season so special. Indeed, once the pink and white petals have fallen away, you can see the green leaves bursting through – thus signalling in the beginning of summer.