Following the Cherry Blossoms of Japan
The blossoming of the cherry trees in Japan has great symbolic meaning of how nature and life endures. Each year the Japanese celebrate the blossoming of the trees with flower-viewing parties, as well as visiting local parks and shrines.
The blossoming trees mean that warm weather is on its way and also signifies the beginning of the working year. The cherry blossom front – the order in which the trees blossom throughout the country is known as the ‘sakura zensen’ . It is closely mapped out by the Japanese Meteorological Society and broadcast along with the weather forecasts. The blossoms remain on the trees for around a week before falling.
When to go
The cherry blossoms first open in the south of Japan and move up the country, taking around 10 weeks. Generally the first to appear are in Okinawa from mid to late January. It is usually late March by the time the cherry blossoms begin to open in Tokyo and the higher climbs of the country. It is a popular tourist season for the Japanese with many families taking a break to incorporate visiting one of the blossom hotspots with a little holiday. The Japan Cherry Blossom Association has details of where is best to see the blossoms each year as this changes depending on the weather over the Winter.
Where to go
There are cherry trees in most public parks and gardens throughout Japan. They are outside schools, offices, places of worship and Buddhist shrines. There are cherry blossom hotspots though that are famous for their Spring displays of flowers. Here are my top five;
- Maruoka Parka in Kagoshima has over 6,000 trees. These are stunningly lit at night, like a fairy tale vision.
- Sengangen Garden in Kagoshima has a beautiful view of Sakurojima as well as over 2,000 trees.
- Ichifusa Dam in Fukuoka is home to more than 20,000 trees and has special night viewing.
- Mount Tsurumi in Oita is typically picture-postcard perfect. The cherry trees blossom in April.
- Kumamoto Castle in Kumamoto is literally surrounded by cherry trees. It would make an amazing wedding venue!
Touring the country
The ultimate Japanese trip has to be a tour of the country, following the cherry blossoms from region to region as they open and fall. There are plenty of tour operators that offer arranged visits, moving from one town to the next. For a 2 week visit you can expect to pay anything from £2,000 upwards. The upside of this however is that everything from flights and transfers to hotels and park tickets are arranged for you in advance. If you are thinking about arranging your own tour of the country though make sure you book accommodation early as hotels, particularly those with natural hot spas book up quickly.
Travelling to Japan is nothing like going on a short trip to Spain or even responding to the allures of Thailand, much further east. However, Japan is as far east as one can go and the mysticism of the land of the rising sun has no equal there.