In Japan, March marks the beginning of the season of Hanami, a pastime of millions of Japanese and overseas tourists during the spring season. Take a stroll down lovely avenues and admire the delicate, ethereal cherry blossoms, called Sakura in Japanese. Check out the region-wise predicted dates for the 2015 season at http://www.jnto.go.jp/sakura/eng/index.php.
Here’s the top 5 places to get blown away by the sheer beauty of the bloom in spring –
- Mount Yoshino, Nara
Mount Yoshino in Nara prefecture has more than 30,000 cherry blossom trees of 200 varieties along the slopes, with trees at different elevations blooming at different times for an extended hanami season. Yoshino is a UNESCO World Heritage site with ancient temples and shrines, so a great place at any time of the year, and undoubtedly one of the best places for Hanami during spring. Book a sightseeing tour of the highlights of Nara at http://www.holidayen.com/compare/s/d2017-kyoto/d4691-nara
- Ueno Park, Tokyo
A sprawling public park with temples and museums, Ueno is one of the most popular spaces in the city for Sakura viewing with over 1000 trees.
- Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokyo
Originally the samurai residence of the Naito family during the Edo era, Shinjuku is a spacious landscape garden with 1500 cherry blossom trees. In Tokyo, you could also take a Cherry Blossom Tour.
- Daigoji Temple, Kyoto
With a 5 storeyed pagoda and traditional Japanese garden, this UNESCO World Heritage site houses the temple where Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s famous Hanami party of 1598 was held. Based on this event, the Hotaiko Hanami Gyoretsu, a costume parade, is held on the second Sunday of every April. Alternately in Tokyo, you could take a Sightseeing Tour of all landmarks and see the best of the blossoms.
- Hirosaki Park, Tohoku
5000 blossoming trees surround the Takaoka Castle in late-April, with Mt Iwaki in the distance. The 120 year-old Somei Yoshino here is the oldest cherry tree in Japan.
Yozakura, the viewing of cherry blossoms at night, is specially arranged at some temples and shrines, with the best lighting and views at Osaka-jo.