Japan is a place of contradictions – visitors often describe it as both comfortably familiar and endlessly surprising at the same time. It’s an intricate blend of East and West, and past and present. The delights on offer range from Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, tea ceremonies, sumo tournaments, and beautifully clad Geisha, to sleek, modern shopping malls, high-tech gadgetry and delectable cuisine – not to mention the raft of intricate customs, etiquette and traditions. We spoke to Pete, our Imagine Asia specialist, who recently returned from this intriguing country.
Cherry blossom in Japan
In the early part of the year, for a few fleeting weeks, Japan is cloaked in a dusky pink as its cherry trees flourish with blossom or sakura. Marking the beginning of spring, the blossom is of huge cultural significance in Japan and nationwide celebrations sweep across the country in its honour. Thought to be reminiscent of the beauty and brevity of life, this precious and revered flower is a reminder of Japan’s dramatically contrasting seasons and exquisite natural beauty. So, whether you choose to map the path of the blossom by bullet train or simply witness the incredible colours from the comfort of your ryokan, the cherry blossom is a must-see on any springtime Japan itinerary.
When to go
The first sighting of the famed cherry blossom usually takes place in January or February in the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, with the first blossoms or kaika appearing a week or so before full bloom or mankai takes hold. Within just another week, the blossom starts to float from the trees appearing snow like as it covers the ground in a blanket of pastel pink. Throughout spring, the phenomenon continues to sweep northwards across Japan’s central archipelago, before reaching the island of Hokkaido by early May.
Where to go
With over 200 species of cherry tree blossoming spontaneously, from the ancient parks of Tokyo, to the temples of Kyoto and the foothills of Mount Fuji, there are plenty of opportunities to catch the sakura in full bloom throughout Japan. Whilst Mother Nature offers no guarantees of when the first buds will begin to blossom, enjoying a picnic or dancing the night away under the pink canopies is a truly authentic way to welcome their arrival. Hanami describes the festivities that take place to appreciate the cherry blossom, a tradition that has been embraced for many centuries. These exuberant celebrations are a tribute to Japan’s most beloved flower, and hues of pink can be found in the cuisine, culture and clothing of the country throughout spring.
Call our specialists for more information on when and where to catch the cherry blossom during your tailor-made holiday to Japan.