Travel

Blooming Marvellous

Picnic under the petals – it’s cherry blossom season.

Text by Vincent Leung, photo by © JNTO

Delicate and shimmeringly beautiful, pink and white cherry blossoms have been luring the Japanese outside for bloom-viewing parties, known as hanami, since the eighth century. It’s so popular that local news broadcasts carry cherry blossom forecasts as the flowers bloom across the country each spring. Sakura trees blossom at different times depending on latitude and weather, so check the forecast for your destination.

Flowering starts in late March on Honshu, where visitors to Osaka’s riverside Kema Sakuranomiya Park are greeted by almost 5,000 cherry trees in bloom. Savour the spectacle by river cruise, stroll along the promenade or picnic on the lawns. The city’s other must-visit destination is Osaka Castle, where the timeless monument is softened by the blossom’s fleeting beauty.

Out of town, the green slopes of Mount Yoshino blush a splendid pink in early April as a sea of cherry trees bursts into flower. And in late April it’s the turn of the northeastern city, Hirosaki, when the surface of the castle moat is covered with a dreamy swirl of petals. Couples take to rowing boats for a romantic date on the water or visit at night when moody lights add drama to the spectacle.

Outside Japan, the National Cherry Blossom Festival takes place in Washington DC from March 20 to April 17 when trees donated by the Tokyo government bloom beside the Jefferson Memorial. The blossom is accompanied by cultural ceremonies and performances, including a grand parade featuring brightly dressed bands and troupes. The Sakura Matsuri, with all sorts of Japanese culture on full display, is the main event.

Blooming forecast by Japan National Tourism Organization
www.jnto.go.jp/sakura/eng/index.php

National Cherry Blossom Festival
www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org

Note: The forecast is subject to change due to weather conditions.

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