Cherry blossoms fill Japan with beautiful imageries
Mother showing her daughter the cherry blossoms at Nakanoshima Park
View of a lone Sakura tree from the train journey
Tourists capturing the blossom filled landscape from the Sagano Scenic Railway (a.k.a "The Romantic Train")
Entrance to Nakamise shopping street that leads to Tokyo's Senso-ji temple
Cherry blossom buds opening up at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
The Land of the Rising Sun – Japan – invites the world on a Sakura pilgrimage as the country welcomes the fairy-like cherry blossoms in its every nook and cranny.
Japan’s beloved cherry blossom season, Sakura, from late March to early May, has become something of a travel sensation in the last couple of years. Tour packages dedicated to viewing this floral phenomenon are countless and chances of actually catching it, few. The cotton-candy landscapes sweep the Japanese archipelago for a very short window of time, making them a precious sight to both tourists and locals, who at the sight of the first bloom drop everything and head over to the nearest park for bento (lunch in Japanese). The art of picnicking under these fluffy trees is referred to as hanami, reminding us of the unique way in which this country celebrates the changing of seasons. It doesn’t stop at flowers – bakeries bring out their bespoke blossom themed sweets, bars show off their carefully concocted cherry flavoured drinks – if you’re lucky you might even score a ticket to “Miyako Odori” theatre performance in Kyoto where apprentice Geishas dance the hour away in honour of the magical season.
As you begin your journey, most likely with the capital Tokyo, a city that might seem rather grey and uninviting at first, you will find yourself wondering where the cakey buds are hiding and what the fuss is all about. You just have to search a little deeper. Luckily, Tokyo boasts of magnificent parks that are perfect for appreciating the unpredictable flower, a highlight being the Imperial Palace East Gardens among others such as Shinjuku Gyoen and Yoyogi, Ueno, and Sumida Parks.
In Kyoto, over 450 kilometres from Tokyo, you’ll find that blossoms can elevate even the simplest of visits, as they dangle into the silent waters of a nearby pond or cover you in petals while you walk along the iconic Philosophers Path, following a cherry-tree lined canal, and up the steps of its glorious neighbouring temples. At Keage Incline, once used as a railway line, visitors find themselves head to-head with the feathery branches as they follow the abandoned path leading them straight up into the trees. Gion, the historic district of Kyoto, is without a doubt the quaintest part of town with Sakura lined shopping streets full of local craftsmen, snazzy boutiques and pictureperfect tearooms – not to forget the scrumptious Matcha ice cream sundaes at every corner.
A serene district in Kyoto, dotted with picturesque temples, lush fields and beautiful residences – Arashiyama – makes for a perfect place to unwind – preferably on a bicycle – away from the hustle bustle of the city. Take a walk through the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) world heritage classified gardens of the 14th century Buddhist temple Tenryu-ji; sample street foods at Nakanoshima Park, under a hundredsomething cherry trees, in the port city of Osaka; or hop on to the Sagano Romantic train, from Arashiyama and Kameoka in Kyoto, to enjoy the beautiful view of Hozugawa Ravine during spring. Its open-air carriages will whisk you into the mountains for mesmerising views of the pinkish hues from afar.