Cherry blossom or sakura is synonymous with Japanese spring as the whole country becomes awash with pink. Throughout Japan there are open spaces that draw huge crowds as the hanami or cherry blossom viewing parties enter full swing. Cherry blossoms are in bloom for only a week where they can be found, but it is between late March and mid-May that they bloom throughout the various locations in Japan, as the country is long from north to south. The Japanese call this the cherry blossom front, and it is one of the main topics of spring.
The most familiar flower for Japanese is sakura (cherry blossoms). Every spring, people admire cherry blossoms and have a picnic party under the blooming trees. This picnic party is also called “hanami (cherry blossom viewing)” and it is one of the most popular events of spring in Japan. Starting from late March through early May, cherry blossoms across Japan will be in peak bloom in one region after another. Cherry blossoms in Kyushu start blooming earlier than other regions of Japan. And the opening of cherry blossoms moves northward as time goes by. The blossoms will be falling in about one week after the peak bloom. While it is nice to simply appreciate the beauty of the blossoms at the places known for cherry blossoms like Shinjuku Gyoen or Arashiyama in Kyoto, you will have more ways to enjoy cherry blossoms if you visit other popular tourist attractions.
All about Hanami
If you are lucky enough to be in Japan during cherry blossom season, it is de rigueur to head out into the local parks and gardens, bring a selection of picnic food and drinks and join the locals for a hanami – or "flower-viewing". It is during this period that the Japanese are at their most relaxed, and all public places take on a party-like atmosphere.
Typical hanami spots include city parks, landscape gardens, castle grounds and along riverbanks, and you'll find all of these areas buzzing with people throughout the sakura season. The blossom usually only hangs around for a couple of weeks - sometimes less if there is heavy rain on the cards - so you only have a brief window in which to enjoy the trees in full bloom. So popular are these parties that some companies will pay a member of staff to sit in the park all day, saving a spot for the office hanami in the evening!
Hanami can be conducted in the daytime sun or in the evening. Both are lovely, but we particularly enjoy the blossoms at dusk when lanterns hang in the trees, turning the canopy a glowing pink. You might also be lucky enough to spot a geisha or two entertaining clients under the trees!