It has always been a dream and bucket list item of mine to visit Japan during cherry blossom season, when the whimsical pink flowers bloom and captivate admirers from across the world. Last week, I had the pleasure of doing this while on my way to Korea.
Since this was my second time visiting Tokyo (info on my first trip can be found here), I knew my way around pretty well and mostly found it a breeze to get around the bustling city. However, the city was especially busy since April is one of the best times of year to visit. It’s still quite chilly but there is definitely an air of excitement as their famous spring season begins.
Cherry blossom season only lasts for two brief weeks out of the year. It is very hard to predict exactly when they’ll be peaking and the blossom forecast creates much buzz each year, but generally it falls around the first week in April for the Tokyo area. However, it is not limited to just the capital city. Cherry blossom trees can be found all throughout the country. In fact, many argue that other areas, such as Kyoto, are far better spots to view and enjoy cherry blossoms than in a hectic urban environment. Despite this, it’s estimated that 2 million visitors flock to Tokyo around this timeframe to witness the beloved flowers in full bloom.
In addition to tourists who delight in the “sakura” blossoms, the Japanese have their own traditions revolving around the enchanting and delicate pink flowers. Hanami translates to “flower viewing” in Japanese and is a favorite pastime in their culture. During the brief cherry blossom season, they enjoy picnics with loved ones while sitting directly under the trees, often with the petals falling all around them like snowflakes. What I found pretty amusing is how awestruck the Japanese spectators appeared when viewing the flowers, almost as if they don’t get to see them every single year. But as a Washington, DC area native who also got to enjoy these gorgeous flowers in my hometown annually, I can understand. Once you witness it in person, it’s pretty easy to see why this is so highly anticipated all year long by locals. It’s simply magical.
Two of the most popular places to see cherry blossoms within Tokyo are Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and Ueno Park, and thankfully I got to see both. Ueno Park is free to the public and consists of about 1,200 cherry blossom trees, which mostly line the beautiful Shinobazu Pond. There are museums, a shrine, and a little street festival nearby, which make it a fun place to spend the day. However, Shinjuku Gyoen was my favorite. This huge park has approximately 1,500 cherry blossom trees of many different shades of pink, draws huge crowds during peak hours, and costs 200 JPY for admission (about 2 USD).
During my visit, the trees seemed to be just past peak blossom and petals were beginning to fall. However, this created an even more stunning visual with a pink carpet effect among the park. It honestly felt surreal to walk through and witness the beautiful sights. I got to take some phenomenal photos that I am so happy to share, in hopes that it will inspire others to also take the journey to Japan for the marvelous cherry blossom season someday too! Enjoy!
All images © 2016 Bohemian Soul.