Springtime in Japan is nothing less than magical. From late March to mid April the country's iconic sakura (cherry blossom) captures the attention of visitors from far and wide who marvel at the short-lived pink flowers on the abundance of cherry trees.
Cherry Blossom Season is steeped in tradition. The Japanese Shinto religion venerates almost every natural object and so the Spring season has long since been a chance to make offerings to the spirits in the trees. Flower-viewing parties were held at the Imperial Palace as long ago as the early 9th century.
It's also said that the cherry blossom petals represent Samurai warriors because they fall at the height of their beauty - the beauty and fragility of the cherry blossoms have come to symbolise the Samurai way of life.
The party-like atmosphere in Cherry Blossom Season is electric and infectious; parks become packed with revellers, and every supermarket shelf and restaurant starts to offer 'Sakura Specials'. It truly is a nationwide celebration that you can't help to get swept up in.
If you are lucky enough to find yourself in Japan when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom you absolutely must make yourself a picnic and head to the parks to join locals for Hanami or 'flower viewing'. It's a lovely way to while away an afternoon, and at dusk lanterns in the trees are turned on creating a magical pretty pink glow.
The changeable timings of the Cherry Blossom Season make it all the more exciting. Tourists and locals alike have to keep checking the Blossom Forecast to make sure they are in the right place at the right time to catch a glimpse of the beauty. When you find yourself under a blanket of blossom you feel like Fortune's favourite.
Our Top 5 Sakura Spots:
1. Chidori-ga-fuchi, North West of Imperial Palace
Hire a boat and bask in the beauty of 260 cherry trees lining the banks of the Imperial Palace moat with the abundance of blossom reflecting in the calm waters.
2. Hirosaki Castle, Hirosaki
The mixture of the ancient castle as a beautiful backdrop and the many sakura-themed nighttime illuminations mean this pink wonderland is the ultimate photo shoot destination.
3. Ueno Park, Tokyo
One of Japan's most popular spots for cherry blossom parties, if you come here in the day you'll find employees sitting and holding spots for their bosses on blue tarpaulin to come and party at night!
4. Daigo-ji Temple, Kyoto
You can head to Registered World Cultural Heritage Site, Daigo-ji Temple to see the blossoms covering the stunning gardens or simply wander around the traditional streets of central Kyoto at night - there's something about the possibility of catching a glimpse of a Geisha framed by blossom trees that is hard to resist.
5. Nara Park, Nara
Not only does the park have 1,700 cherry trees but it is also home to protected herds of deer. Enjoy a stroll around the natural landscape but watch your bags - those deer are afraid of nothing.
As blossom season comes to an end and the flowers begin to fall the parks and gardens of Japan are blanketed with pretty pink petals. The tarpaulin lining the parks is packed away and the people disperse - ready to do it all again the following Spring.
Image Sources: Postcards Home, (3) and (4): japan-guide.com
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