Cherry blossom (sakura) and Hanami both have a great impact on Japanese culture and tradition. Unlike ume matsuri so called plum blossom festival, hanami attracts many foreign travelers from all over the world. I don’t forget to see impressive view of Cherry blossoms in spring. At least I go to several public parks and temples around my home town once in a year to see sakura with friends and my family members. Though, I see many cherry trees around us here including the mountainous slopes, lined sakura trees in the riversides, castle’s grounds, botanical gardens, and samurai districts. It would be a meaningless life if we don’t see sakura in our nature in the spring season.
Japan is the land of the rising sun, this is the land of cherry blossoms, and this is the land where a cherry blossoms festival “Hanami” is celebrated by Japanese people. Let us explore together and see what a beautiful nature cherry blossom could create. Here, you would be familiar with the history of Japanese cherry blossom, its variety, popular hanami spots, hanami celebration, symbolism, and some very beautiful cherry blossoms pictures in this article. If you want to visit Japan in spring season then you have come to the right spot, I am going to share some great tips to you so that you could enjoy your Japan trip.
What is Hanami?
The English meaning of Hanami is called “flower viewing“, though typically it refers to sakura viewing. Hanami, the cherry blossom festival (Sakura Matsuri) is a very popular festival in Japan. Usually hanami season starts in late February and ends in mid May. People get excited to have an outdoor picnic party under sakura trees after spending three months of freezing winter. I like going out for a walk in the park we have in our home town where lots of sakura trees can be seen. It is enjoyable and most importantly memorable. Before arriving of hanami we celebrate other seasonal festival that is held usually from early February to late March. Can you tell me the name of that festival? We call this festival as Ume Matsuri (Plum Blossom Festival).
History of Hanami in Japan
Here I am going to tell you about the history of Japanese cherry blossom festival. Hanami is a popular traditional Japanese festival held every year in Japan during spring season. Japan is the country where cherry blossom festival appeared for the first time in the history. It is believed that flower viewing custom has started in Nara period (710-794). Though this practice was first associated with plum blossom later it was linked with cherry blossom in Heian Period (794-1185). It is better to tell you that Buddhism flourished in Japan during Nara period.
The Emperor Saga used to welcome this flower viewing time with celebratory feast and parties under Cherry trees in Kyoto’s Imperial Court during Heian Period. It was the time, only upper class people have the right to practice it though in the early 1600′s it spread to all citizen of Japan in Edo period. Now, not only Japanese people celebrate it but also people from all over the world celebrate it in spring.
Cherry Blossoms Stay Only for a Short Period of Time!
Do you know Cherry blossoms last only for a week or more than a week? That’s the reason why Japanese people need blooming forecasting to start and prepare for the Hanami festival. Japanese people love viewing cherry blossoms in spring. This is the time they prepare to see the stunning view of cherry blossoms. They need exact forecast and based on that they make their own travel plan to get some ideas of where to go to see the sakura. Later, in this article you would see the famous cities and famous spots of viewing cherry blossoms across Japan.
Beautiful Cherry Blossoms and Japanese Garden in Spring
Japanese gardens in spring become very beautiful and charming. Usually Japanese gardens are filled with many flowers and trees. Most of the gardens have cherry trees and when cherry flowers bloom in spring they turn into a new look just like a heaven!
I know how it feels like; I think you can feel it once you visit Japan and its public gardens where many cherry blossoms are seen during spring. The same thing happens in autumn, but that time you see only red and yellow leaves, no cherry blossoms.
Cherry Blossoms (Sakura) in Japanese Culture
Cherry blossoms and Japanese culture are closely related to each other. Japanese culture is rich enough and cherry blossom adds an extra beauty of its culture. I think you have noticed that you see many things which are designed in cherry blossoms theme such as clothing and paintings. You can find the word “cherry blossom” in many Japanese songs, poems, novels, stories, manga, and anime. Numerous works of Asian art depict cherry blossoms, ranging from silk paintings to poems. Cherry blossom is truly famous in this country, no doubt about that.
As we all know that, cherry blossom does not exist for a long time. Its life is very short. In this short period of time, it brings a lot of joys to us. Cherry blossom is seen as clouds which are associated with spring and mortality. Hanami would be not be celebrated by the Japanese if there was no existence of cherry blossom. Hanami – the cherry blossom festival has started from Nara period. I think you already have read the history part in this page. There is a long history behind Hanami. This festival has an important role in Japanese culture. Many cultural events are arranged that include dancing, singing, storytelling, offering seasonal foods, taiko drum performance, modeling, drama performance at theater and many more.
Do you know what Sakura means except flower blossom? It actually can refer as announcement of the rice planting season. Nowadays hundred thousands of travelers from all over the world come to Japan to see its beauty and culture heritages.
Japanese Cherry Blossom Symbolism
What Do Japanese Cherry Blossoms Symbolize? Do you know the answer? I know this and it is very easy to answer. The significance of the cherry blossoms in Japanese culture is very important and thing to be discussed by cherry blossom lovers. Japanese Cherry blossom symbolizes many things. It mainly symbolizes Hope, Purity, and New Beginning. Also fallen cherry blossom is seen as a life of a worrier who passed away in war.
In Japan Cherry blossom symbolizes –
3) New beginning
4) Bright future
6) Poetic appeal
Japanese cherry blossom symbolism comes from Buddhist concept. Like every Buddhist believes that nothing is permanent in this world. Buddhism believes in rebirth. As you know cherry blossom is not a permanent thing which can be experienced in summer, autumn and winter, it lasts for a week in a particular place only and that’s in spring!
If it is the ending and then there will be the beginning, thus how our life is going on year after year. Change is the only constant. We see ups and down in our life, so there is nothing to be depressed of anything. The picture you see above is The Great Buddha of Kamakura or (Kamakura Daibutsu) that is located in Kotokuin Temple, Kamakura.
Japan’s Best Cherry Viewing Spots
Most Popular Hanami Spots in Japan
What are the top cherry blossom viewing spots in Japan? You will get this simple answer here, right away! Though, I could tell you a lot of best hanami spots to visit but I have decided to share with you only the best of the best. I love cherry blossom season, this is the time when nature of Japan changes and turns into a new look. Things are going to be crazy because of sakura appearance. Spring in Japan would never make you feel board. You may have a question like this one “Where to see cherry blossom in Japan?” – actually you are going to find them right here in this article.
There are so many Hanami spots you can find out throughout Japan but we can make a short list of it. They are spread all over Japan in different cities including Tokyo, Okinawa, Osaka, Yokohama, Nara, Nagoya, Kyoto, Hokkaido, Fukushima, Hiroshima and so on.
Where there is sakura there is hanami as well. Varieties of cherry blossoms can be seen across Japan. They don’t bloom at the same time, some are early and some are late bloomers. Not all the cherry trees bloom in one color as well though white color sakura is very popular in Japan.
I don’t want you are directed by others in a wrong direction. There is a possibility of missing hanami at the right spot that you desire to be part of. Hanami does not take place when there is no sakura on the cherry trees. To find the exact location of beautiful Hanami spots I have brought to you the most popular hanami spots of Japan. Let’s see the popular Hanami and Sakura viewing spots here in Japan. These popular sakura spots spread out in different regions and cities across Japan.
1) Tokyo: Shinjuku Gyoen, Ueno Park, Chidorigafuchi
2) Kyoto: Philosopher’s Path, Heian Shrine, Maruyama Park, Kiyomizudera Temple
3) Yokohama: Sankeien Garden, Mitsuike Park (Mitsuike Koen)
4) Kamakura: Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
5) Hokkaido: Matsumae Park, Goryokaku Fort
6) Fukushima: Miharu Takizakura, Hanamiyama Park
7) Hiroshima: Miyajima
8) Himeji: Himeji Castle
9) Osaka: Osaka Castle, Kema Sakuranomiya Park, Expo 70 Commemorative Park, Osaka Mint Bureau
10) Nagoya: Nagoya Castle, Yamazakigawa Riverside
11) Izu Peninsula: Kawazu
12) Matsumoto: Matsumoto Castle
13) Tohoku: Hirosaki Castle, Kitakami, Koiwai Farm
14) Matsuyama: Matsuyama Castle
15) Takamatsu: Megijima Island
16) Okayama: Handayama Botanical Garden, Korakuen Garden and Okayama Castle
17) Yoshino: Yoshinoyama
18) Nara: Nara Park, Hase-dera Temple
19) Fuji Five Lakes: Chureito Pagoda, Northern Shores of Kawaguchiko
20) Sendai: Mikamine Park
21) Wakayama: Kimiidera Temple, Negoroji Temple
The Place Where the Earliest Sakura Appear in Japan
In Japan, Sakura season starts from here
Have you heard of a place called Okinawa? It is a famous and beautiful island that is located in Japan. Okinawa is the fifth largest island of Japan. You can start your Hanami expedition from there.
This is the first place of Japan where cherry blossoms are seen every year in the first week of February. So we can say that Japanese cherry blossom season starts from this island. Cherry blossoms then start spreading one place to other places throughout the country when days pass by.
Okinawa’s cherry trees start blooming in February. So, before they are in full bloom, make sure you arrive there on time. This place is referred as an early cherry bloomer city.
Paper and electric lanterns are hung in the cheery trees in Okinawa Island to create a fabulous view of cherry blossoms in the evening time. So why are you waiting for, start your 2016 sakura and hanami trip from here.
Cherry Blossom (Sakura) Forecast 2017
To be honest with you, if you really want to view sakura then I suggest you to check out the cherry blossom forecast first. This is the first and initial step of viewing sakura and participating in Hanami. If you expect that Tokyo’s sakura start blooming in February then surly you would miss it. In fact, hanami starts in Tokyo from Mid-march or end of March. While on the other hand Okinawa’s sakura bloom in early February. From this point of view you must reply on the forecast. Japanese national newspapers, TV, Radio, Magazine, Tours and Travel Sites all publish forecast news before hanami arrives in a particular date or time. To get the 2017 Japan cherry blossoms forecast, please check it out.
What a Celebration! Let’s start Dancing and Singing
It is time for a big celebration! Hanami festival is on the way. Japanese are celebrating their festival. These two girls are enjoying their time singing under cherry trees. What a fun! I personally like singing, but not a professional one. It would be nice for me if I can sing with them on Hanami festival. It is not a bad idea of singing a song as an amateur singer, right?
Just to inform you that, singer can sing any kind of songs during hanami festival, it could be a modern or folk song, who cares! Though, listening folk song under cherry tree is just fun and a lot to enjoy. Hanami is not just for flower viewing but also it brings a lot of things to reflect in our life. Someone sings because they really want to share their joys and feelings by singing in front of real audiences. Others desire to dance at theater and show you Japanese customs, someone will play traditional musical interments. In fact, they are all doing these just to show the world that Hanami is really important for them.
Hanami Celebration and Traditional Costume
I already have mentioned you about Hanami festival and its value to Japanese people. I also told you what they do on the festival. I can’t say all the people in Japan go to a place to participate on Hanami festival wearing their traditional dress such as Kimono and other customize costumes. In fact, you could wear anything you want but wearing a colorful dress makes you perfect and smart!
But there are people who like to wear their traditional dress, even little kid wear little kimono! Look at this women, she is delightful and energetic while dancing under sakura tree. Don’t be shy wearing a kimono if you are a foreigner, native people will be very happy to see you in their traditional dress.
Sakura in Tokyo! What a Beautiful nature!
Take a look at the photograph shown below. Do you want to walk under sakura trees? You just imagine how wonderful it would be for you. Your full excitement will burst out suddenly and say “wow, where am I now?”. I want to surprise you telling you that there are over 100 unique hanami spots. Is not it amazing? Will you have time to visit all these hanami spots?
This city hosts the popular hanami spots through Japan such as Ueno Park, Shinjuku Gyoen, Chidorigafuchi, Meguro River, Sumida Park, Asukayama Park, Koishikawa Botanical Garden, Koishikawa Korakuen, Aoyama Cemetery, Inokashira Park, and Yoyogi Park. I guess you already have noticed about all these.
You have to arrive in Tokyo in early April to see sakura in different hanami spots I just mentioned here. Some of these hanami spots have over a dozen varieties cherry trees. Cherry tress are light up in the evening time at some hanami spots, keep this in mind in order to see night Sakura.
Japanese Cherry Tree & Blossom Varieties
Here in this article, you have seen the popularity of Japanese cherry blossom and hanami spots but have you ever thought of how many varieties of cherry trees can be found in Japan? Well, in Japan there are over one hundred cherry tree varieties existed. Some of these varieties bloom early while on the other hand some bloom a bit late. In general, most of them bloom in the spring season. Still people there plant cherry trees in parks, temples, gardens and shrines. There are a very few type of cherry trees that are totally wild.
Now, lets talk about cherry tree’s petals. Five petals cherry flower is a traditional here in Japan, though you can find 20 and even 100 petals of cherry flowers such as Kikuzakura. They may appear in three most common colors: 1) White, 2) Pink and 3) Yellow. Leaves actually come out after they are in full bloom. Somei Yoshino, Yamazakura and Shidarezakura are the most common cherry trees in Japan. Except these there are other types of cherry trees and they bloom in different time during spring. Here are some most popular cherry varities: 1) Fugenzo 2) Kikuzakura 3) Jugatsuzakura 4) Kawazuzakura 5) Ukon 6) Kanzan 7) Shogetsu 8) Ichiyo 9) Kanzakura and 10) Kanhizakura.
Viewing Sakura at Night
Viewing sakura at night is one of my favorite thing to do during Hanami season. As hanami arrives once in a year, I myself make some plan to enjoy my hanami season joyfully. There is a tradition where Japanese people prefer viewing sakura at night. Oh…viewing sakura at night is called Yozakura in Japanese. Kyoto and Tokyo both are famous for hosting hanami spots at night. Sakura trees are lit up in the evening and this would make crazy to make some shoot with your camera. The best spot for viewing night cherry blossom in Tokyo is called Nakameguro Sakura Festival. You must visit this spot in order to enjoy your night hanami.
Transportation & Accommodation in Japan in Spring
Public transportation network in Japan is very good and well developed. As you know Japan is a developed country and technologically it is highly developed. If you come to Japan to see Hanami in spring I guess you have to know some very important information about Japan’s public transportation system. There are many Hanami spots all over Japan so don’t you think you have to move from place to other places to see Cherry blossom festival? Of course you have to move and you can only move by train, bus, taxi, bicycle, ships, and by air.
One JR Pass could even save your time and reduce your travel cost. There are also regional JR Passes for foreign travelers who could purchase it outside Japan.
It is very easy to find good hotels including five or four stars hotels including ryokan and guest houses across Japan such as in Tokyo, Kyoto, Tohoku, Yokohama, Hokkaido and Hiroshima. Before your arrival in a particular city/town you should book rooms online in advance. If you don’t do it earlier (specially during hanami season) then you may not find a cheap hotel to stay at. Please find the best hotel deals right now. It is a very easy way of booking rooms. Japanese restaurants serve traditional Japanese dishes, they are delicious and most importantly they are healthy food for us.
Well, if you are a foreign tourist and just came to Japan to see Hanami festival then you must know what type of public transports works best for you best. You get all the transports such as Taxi, Rental Car, Plane, Train, Ship, and Bus. You have to choose one based on your time and affordability. If you wish to see cherry blossom only inside Tokyo city then just you can rent a car or you can just take taxi with you.
On the other hand, if you wish to go to Okinawa from Tokyo city then you have to reach there by air so that you can get there your destination very easily and fast. One of the fastest transport in Japan is the railway. Train is seen as one of the best ways to travel all over Japan. So don’t you bother to take train (Shinkansen – Bullet train), it will take you anywhere else you wish to go in Japan.
Are you Ready for Hanami 2016 in Japan?
Finally, your virtual trip to Japan is almost over. Have you enjoyed viewing sakura here in this page? I guess you are thinking like you would at least try once to come here in Japan in the spring to view stunning cherry blossoms.
Get ready for this year Hanami festival and don’t miss a thing. Make your dreams come true visiting Japan, yet a lot to explore for you except sakura viewing. Japan itself a beautiful country where foreign people (travelers) never get board. You can spend your time sitting on the ground under majestic cherry blossoms trees. I am sure you will love to share your Hanami trip story with your friends. It is going to be a lifetime experience for you.
I wish for you a good luck and don’t forget what I said here in this article. Follow them in order to have a great spring trip to Japan. Cherry blossom in Japan is very charming than what you have thought of it before and I know you can’t wait to see this. Explore this beautiful country with your friends and family and eat Sushi a lot. Thanks guys, hope this year spring will bring you a lot of joys and happiness in your life.
Copyright 2015 @ takkhis