The Cherry Blossom Festival in Tokyo is one of the best of all special events in the country. Once the season hits, it is one of the most important things to do in the city, evidenced by huge crowds occupying the best cherry blossom viewing areas in Tokyo. Cherry blossom trees are called sakura in Tokyo, with sakura literally translated as “Japanese flowering cherry.” There is a fairly large window open in which to see this cultural marvel, a practice that seems almost paradoxal in a city encased in cement and highlighted by thousands of neon lights. Yet surprisingly to some, parks do play an important role in everyday life and many signs of nature peak through the urban jungle.
Cherry Blossom Festival in Tokyo
The beauty of sakura in Tokyo is a memorable sight, with towering beautiful trees appearing ethereal and cloud-like. Hanami, the Japanese word for the action of flower viewing, sees crowds gather with fervor to see the beautiful cherry blossoms, both during the day and at night. The custom of hanami at night has a specific name: yokazura, which means “night sakura.” Colorful paper lanterns are hung and food is prepared, to accommodate the outdoor celebration.
The history of hanami has centuries-old roots. The time-honored custom is said to have begun as early as 710, during Japan’s Nara Period, where the blooms in question were of the Japanese apricot tree. Not a century later, when the Heian Period began, sakura became the main attraction. Legend goes that the emperor, known as Saga, would host lavish hanami parties at his Kyoto palace, catering to aristocratic crowds with dining and sake underneath the blooming trees.
Anyone wondering when to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo should note they open between March and May, but only last up to two weeks. Many trees open blooms around the country as early as January and as late as June. Evidence of when to see the cherry blossoms in Tokyo cannot be missed as crowds are abuzz with news of the initial bloom. There are also national forecasts airing through media outlets and newspapers all over the country. Most actual cherry blossom festivals are held between March and May, making that particular time the one of the best times to visit.
During the Cherry Blossom Festival in Tokyo, the tradition is to gather with friends and family under the flowering cherry trees. With such precise forecasts offered, when to see the cherry blossoms in Tokyo is hardly a mystery. There are many ideal spots to enjoy hanami throughout Tokyo, many of which are by shrines and temples, castles, and popular parks. The hot spots are captured by early risers shortly after sunrise by marking their area with a large blanket or tarpaulin adorned with their name. Groups will then meet up at the end of the day to eulogize the event.
Once you’ve determined when to see the cherry blossoms in Tokyo, the next step is to choose a location. The best blossoms of sakura in Tokyo are enjoyed at Shinjuku Gyoen gardens near the Shinjuku station and Tokyo’s super-popular Ueno Park where more than a thousand sakura grow. Sumida Park, with the benefit of Sumida River, offers hanami cruises which are another favored way to embrace the season. The old Edo Castle, now called Chidorigafuchi, is another fantastic spot to celebrate the Cherry Blossom festival in Tokyo. There are rowboats available for rent, plenty of dining available at local stalls and vendors, and the bonus of nearby Yasukuni Shrine, home to a thousand more cherry trees.
Top image: *_* (flickr)