Cherry Blossom Festival – A Sight To Behold!
Cherry Blossom Festival Japan Known as “Hanami” in the local language, Cherry Blossom viewing is an annual event in Japan. It is a time for festivities for the locals as they gather to admire the beautiful sight of cherry blossoms spread their magic everywhere with their various shades of white and pink. For a foreigner who has not seen such beauty before, it is a sight to behold, an experience you won’t find easily in other festivals around the world.
The Japanese cherry blossom festival tree, better known as Sakura, holds a special place in the hearts of Japanese. If you do not already know, Sakura bloom in early spring around Japan starting in Okinawa and run north to Hokkaido. In times gone by the short life of the Sakura blossoms symbolically represented the life of the samurai, meaning that life was beautiful however short. The aforementioned symbolism still holds sway in the heart of many Japanese and throughout Japan there are cherry blossom festival (flower viewing) parties on a massive scale held at locations with high populations of Sakura trees.
Cherry flowers occur in various parts of Japan at different times and if you are visiting Japan and have missed this
awesome sight then you can easily go to other places for cherry blossom festival viewing. The Cherry Blossom viewing season lasts for a week to ten days and presents a mesmerizing picture. Japan has over three hundred species of cherry trees.
Activities During And Around The Cherry Blossom Festival
The cherry blossom festival viewing, includes some great traditional activities. It’s an important social event for Japanese people, an opportunity to celebrate, wind down, and generally fool around a bit. Friends and family picnic with food, beer, and hot sake (rice wine).
A very popular food eaten during the Cherry blossom festival is called Dango. It’s a chewy snack made of rice flour.
To complicate it -the blooming time differs from year to year depending on the weather. If the weather during the months before the season is relatively mild, blossoms will open early. If it was cold, blossoms will open later.
The start of the Cherry Blossom festival season can vary From year to year by as much as two weeks.
Every year, around this time, the weather forecasts include reports on the advance of the Sakura zensen (sakura front). The Meteorological Agency and the media follow the so called “blossom front” as it slowly proceeds.
The Cherry Bloom festival Is Short. Full bloom is usually reached within one week after the opening of the first blossoms. A week later, the blooming peak is over and the blossoms are falling from the trees. Flowers are so fragile that a warm spring rain can easily cause the petals to fall.
This delicate beauty symbolizes purity and melancholy. Japanese poetry and literature are full of analogies to it.
Best Places To Visit During Cherry Blossom Festival
Spring brings forth the crisp air, emerging greenery and Cherry Blossoms in Japan. Cherry Blossoms festival, “Sakura” is the national flower of Japan and is held in reverence throughout Japan. A large number of festivals are held to honor and celebrate the beauty of the cherry blossom.
Cherry Blossom begins to bloom from the southern island of Kyushu in late March and moves northward blooming in early May in Hokkaido. You will be amazed by the sights of the cherry blossoms on your spring trip to Japan.
Fukuoka is one of the places in Japan where cherry trees first heralds its arrival. The Maizuru Park featuring around a 1000 cherry trees is located in the ruins of the ancient Fukuoka Fort. There are various picnic spots in the park where Cherry blossom festival parties take place.
Nishi Park and Atago Shrine are two other places in Fukuoka where cherry blossom festival is done.
If you are in Tokyo then Shinjuku Gyoen is the best place to go. More than a thousand trees of a dozen or so varieties of Cherry are planted here. Because of the different varieties the cherry blossom festival season lasts longer as various trees blossom at different times.
Chidorigafuchi and Ueno Park are two other famous spots for cherry blossom festival in the capital city.
Nara Park in the town of Nara is filled with such beautiful Blossoms in early April; other places in Nara are Heijo Palace and Koriyama Castle Ruins.
The best and the most well known cherry blossom festival spot of Japan remains the Mount Yoshino or the Yoshinoyama in Yoshino. There are over 30,000 trees on the mountain which bloom from early April till the mid of the month.
Hokkaido is one of the places in Japan which experience late cherry blossom; the season lasts from early to mid of May. So this may be an option to enjoy the cherry blossom festival for those who get to Japan in later spring.
Takada Park in Joetsu city, Niigata prefecture is the well known for the night time view of cherry blossoms. Takada Castle which is on the grounds is lit up by as well as over 3000 lanterns hanging from 4000 cherry trees. All of this illuminates the park and provides a festive mood for park goers. The moat surrounding the castle reflects the light of Takada castle and the lanterns creating a mystical atmosphere. Viewing during the day is no slouch as visitors are able to walk down Sakura Road, which is a narrow path, lined with cherry blossom trees on both sides.
Himeji Castle in Hyogo prefecture is well known as one of the 3 most famous castles in Japan. It is also a favorite of cherry blossom festival goers. One needs to realize that in Japan, there are many festivals which honor the sakura and Himeji Castle is no different. It hosts the Himeji Castle cherry blossom viewing Fair which features music performances. With over 1000 sakura trees on the grounds, it is known as a very popular spot in Japan for viewing.
Hirosaki Park is built on the grounds of Hirosaki Castle in Hirosaki, Aomori prefecture. With over 2600 cherry blossom trees, it is touted by several travel journalists as the best spot for cherry blossom festival in the Tohoku region. The cherry blossoms are set against the white walls of the castle and the pine trees. Over a million people annually visit Hirosaki Park during this time which usually runs from late April to early May which coincides with Golden Week in Japan.
Cherry Blossoms grace Osaka in early April and some of the best places in town for viewing Cherry Blossoms are the Kema Sakuranomiya Park. Located on the banks of Okawa River, the park features 5000 beautiful blossom trees standing majestically. You can watch the blossoms from the boats on the river and the promenades. Or you
can enjoy a picnic and the splendor of cherry blossoms of the 4000 trees on the grounds of Osaka Castle.
In conclusion, the cherry blossom festival in Japan is more than just an appreciation of the beauty, as many enjoy the camaraderie of family and friends. Festivals can be found throughout Japan no doubt due to the “sakuras” stature as the national flower. It is a time to enjoy good sake, good food, family and the beauty of spring. On your next visit to Japan, you too will be in awe of the Cherry Blossom.
How To Best Enjoy The Cherry Blossom Festival
Throughout Japan, the cherry blossom festival is celebrated from the moment the first sakura (cherry blossoms) begin to bloom, up until the very last petal falls. There are many ways to celebrate the cherry blossom festival season, but the two most common activities are the blossom viewing promenades and picnics under the trees.
The promenades are usually in the major sakura blossoming sites, like parks, castle gardens, and temple grounds, while the picnics are anywhere the sakura are. On any given day, you’ll see couples or families strolling along paths lined with sakura trees, and groups of tourists peppered throughout the crowds, photographing and admiring the sights in awe. Weekdays are the best days to go out and enjoy the scenery, because when the weekend hits, the chaotic fun begins. Weekends at all blossoming sites are completely packed with people.
The Cherry Blossom Festival Food & Drink
The Japanese pack their picnic food in bento boxes – lunch boxes with compartments for different types of food. The food for the cherry blossom festival should be colourful, especially pink, white and green to reflect the colours of the blossom laden trees. Here are some ideas to get you started…
Yakitori Chicken (wonderful done on the barbecue, but just as great cold), Salmon Teryaki, Sushi Maki (you could get adventurous and try the cherry blossom version wrapped in salmon and made into a flower!), Tamagoyaki (Japanese rolled omelette) – a bento box staple, cherry blossom festival Salad – a pretty cherry blossom inspired rice noodle salad, Dango rice dumplings (traditionally pink, white and green for the cherry blossom festival) – a bit of an acquired taste for the Western palette so you could use pink and white marshmallows threaded on a bamboo skewer instead. Drink Sake! (preferably served warm).
The Cherry Blossom Festival Decoration
If you hanami in the park, you’ll have the real cherry blossom to sit under. If you decide to Hanami at home (outside or in) you can decorate with paper lanterns and sprigs of cherry blossom, and fold some cherry blossom napkins. You can find useful videos on how fold cherry blossom napkins on YouTube.
Eating Japanese Style
In Japan, food is often eaten off low tables and cushions on the floor, rather than Western style chairs and tables. If you are having a cherry blossom festival party at home and have a low table this might be nice to try.
You can’t have a Japanese party without chopsticks! There are quite a few rules surrounding the use of chopsticks, the main ones being; don’t spear your food with them or leave them sticking up in a bowl of rice and don’t point with them or wave them around in the air.
You say “itadakimasu” (“I gratefully receive”) before eating, and “gochisosama (deshita)” (“Thank you for the meal”) afterwards.
When drinking alcohol, it is customary to serve each other, rather than pouring your own drink so keep an eye on your friend’s glasses!
And finally, in Japan its not unusual to see barbecues, karaoke machines and boom boxes, and even night time picnics in parks strung with lanterns. So go to town and have your own cherry blossom festival party… at home or in the park!
The cherry blossom festival picnics in Japan are famous and enjoyed by all. It’s tradition to gather under the sakura trees to admire the surroundings and enjoy the company of friends and loved ones, while eating traditional foods and drinking modern beers or traditional sake. In the heart of this picnic season, it isn’t unusual to see thousands upon thousands of people tightly grouped in every park or anywhere the sakura trees are found. In some cases, you’ll see more people than blossoms, and late arrivals get to play an interesting searching game to find their friends.
The basic items found at almost every picnic party will be decorative plastic ground sheets, beer or sake, bento (traditional Japanese packed lunch), and a variety of traditional cherry blossom festival foods like yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), dango (dumplings), sushi, and takoyaki (octopus dumplings). Overall, the cherry blossom festival parties are great fun for everyone and the entire season brings people closer together between long work days and the rushed life in big cities.
To sum it all, there are of course thousands of other things to do and see during the cherry blossom festival, including some amazing food and drink. Strike off the main path as much as possible and discover your own secret areas of Japan during this season. Enjoy your vacation to the cherry blossom festival this year!
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