Let’s go see sakura!

Lets go see sakura Excursion

Japanese people and sakura

Sakura (Cherry blossoms) are an integral part of modern Japanese life.

Every year around February, weather forecasters on TV start predicting when sakura will bloom. Every Japanese person knows when sakura will bloom in his or her area. At that time of the year, people talk about sakura, saying things like, “Sakura have already bloomed this year,” or “This year’s blossoms will bloom soon”.

Sakura takes less than two weeks from blooming to falling, and the sight of sakura falling as a “snowstorm” has been likened to the transience of human life. It is believed that the appearance of sakura has influenced the spirituality of the Japanese people.

The best time to view sakura

Japan is long from north to south, and its climate ranges from subtropical to subarctic, depending on the region. Therefore, there is a large regional difference in the time when sakura bloom.

The type of sakura you may imagine is “Someiyoshino”. Indeed, “Someiyoshino” can be found almost everywhere in Japan. In fact, there are more than 100 varieties of sakura, and the time of blooming differs depending on the variety.

Western Japan, Kyoto, Tokyo: Late March to early April

Tohoku: From mid April to early May

Hokkaido: early May to mid-May

However, the blooming forecast and the best time to see the flowers in a typical year are only a guide.

If you can stay for a long period of time, such as two weeks, you may be able to see sakura even if the season is a little off. If you can only stay for a short period of time, it is actually quite difficult to see sakura at the right time. The most beautiful season of sakura is only a few days.

The Culture of Hanami

Blooming sakura
Blooming sakura

Going to see sakura is called “Hanami” in Japan.

This custom originated from an aristocratic event around 700. The custom of enjoying sakura continues even today.

Some people stop to view sakura near their homes, while others enjoy viewing sakura with family, friends, or colleagues over drinks. Or you may go all the way to a famous sakura viewing spot to enjoy the blossoms. There are different ways to enjoy hanami, but they are all hanami.

I hope you will enjoy hanami in your favorite way.

Be careful if you go to Kyoto, a city with many famous places!

Kyoto has many places where you can enjoy sakura along with the historical cityscape. In other words, Japanese and foreigners alike all want to go to Kyoto.

Therefore, Kyoto becomes even more crowded than usual during sakura season.

There are two ways to avoid such crowds in Kyoto

1. Choose Osaka for your stay

Kyoto is a 30-minute train ride from Osaka, the largest city in the Kansai region. Due to the crowds during sakura season, hotels in Kyoto are expensive and it is often impossible to get the room you want. In Osaka, prices remain the same even during the sakura season, and there are many hotels. Another advantage is that you can enjoy Osaka’s unique cuisine for dinner.

2. When choosing sakura viewing spots, start with accessibility

During sakura season, the roads in Kyoto are extremely crowded. Especially on weekends, it is sometimes faster to walk. It is best to avoid places accessible only by bus or cab. It is better to choose places that can be reached by train, subway, or on foot to avoid traffic congestion.

Recommended sakura viewing spots in Kyoto with good accessibility

Daigoji Temple

A 10-minute walk from Daigo Station (Tozai Subway Line). The architecture of this World Heritage-listed temple is magnificent, and you will be lucky if you can see the cherry blossoms at the same time.

Ninna-ji Temple

A 15-minute walk from Hanazono Station (JR Sagano Line). The cherry blossoms on the temple grounds are especially called “Omuro-zakura”. Unlike other sakura, the Omuro-zakura is at its best around the end of April.

Sakura viewing spots in Tokyo that I want to keep secret

There are many famous cherry blossom viewing spots in Tokyo, including the Imperial Palace, Ueno Park, Shinjuku Gyoen, and Meguro River. All of them offer beautiful sakura, but they can be quite crowded in Tokyo, where there are many people.

So, let me introduce sakura viewing spot that I really don’t want to tell you about. I actually go here every year to see sakura.

Sakura along the Shakujii River

sakura along the shakujii river
Sakura along the river

It is about a 5-minute walk from Naka-Itabashi Station (Tobu Tojo Line). Sakura bloom on both sides of the river, and you can view the blossoms along the river to the neighboring Tokiwadai Station. It is not so crowded that you cannot walk.

Both sakura themselves and the scenery with them are representative of Japan. You can go back the next year to see the same sakura, or you can go somewhere else to view the blossoms.

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