There’s nothing quite like sakura season in Japan.
The cherry blossom season has been celebrated here for centuries and holds a special place in the country’s culture. The Japanese celebrate this time of the year with Hanami — cherry blossom viewing parties where families and friends gather on mats under the blossoming trees, to share a drink and take in the sensational pastel pink shades of the blooms.
The blossoms’ lives are short, with most flowers lasting only a couple of weeks, but they are symbolic of Spring, a time of renewal, and the fleeting nature of life.
There are many varieties of cherry trees in Japan, and most bloom for just a couple of days in Spring. The Sakura season sweeps up the country from south to north; the milder the climate, the earlier the blossoms appear. Starting from Kyūshū in the south sometime in March, eventually passing through the Kansai and Kantō regions of Honshū in early April.
Yoshino is Japan’s most renowned cherry blossom destination, and for a few weeks in early to mid-April, the pale pink to white blooms of thousands of cherry trees form a floral carpet that gradually covers the mountainsides. It’s a sight to behold, a reminder of the magnificence of nature, and it draws admirers from across Japan to behold this often once-in-their-life experience.
The narrow streets of Yoshino fill with thousands of appreciative visitors, and then, just like the blossoms, the visitors are gone, and Yoshino reverts to a quiet village with a handful of shrines and temples.
The ultimate and most photographed view is the Chureitō Pagoda in Arakurayama-Sengen Park, where you can see not only the classic five-storey pagoda with its carved eaves but also a sea of cherry blossoms beneath it, while on the horizon glorious Mount Fuji, still draped in snow, offers the most majestic backdrop.
In Japan, it is impossible to think of springtime without these heady pink blooms coming to mind. The subject of paintings, poems, and songs, and proudly swooned over during picnics for generations, they are cited as a mesmerizing reminder of the transient nature of life.
Where best to see the cherry trees? Mount Yoshino has been Japan’s most popular cherry blossom viewing spot for centuries. Covered in over 30,000 cherry trees, most aficionados choose this for their floral pilgrimage.
It’s a reminder that life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful, but also tragically short. ― Homaro Cantu
** This post forms part of my 100x Magical Places series which offers an introduction to my favourite destinations.
** Pics sourced on Pixabay.