Spring is an exciting time of the year. The rising temperature gives life to tiny microorganisms and young plants will start to sprout. Seasonal flowers especially – will bloom. In Japan, the flower for this season is the sakura or cherry blossom. People will flock to see this flower not just because of its fragile beauty, but also because of from the moment the flower bloomed, it has an incredibly short lifespan, usually not lasting more than 2 weeks.
Most of us have heard of how sakura viewing or hanami 花見 (the Japanese word for flower viewing) is a big and important event that it is widely celebrated across the country. As a foreigner travelling to Japan during this season, we want to join in the hanami fun too. There are generally a few ways you can enjoy hanami like the local Japanese. Do you know what are those? Let’s find out.
This is the most common way to do hanami. What can be easier than just bringing yourselves or with your loved ones to the park, and walk around areas with blooming sakura? The spring weather is just right for a good stroll, and the sweet scent of sakura is just inviting. Many people flock to the parks for hanami, but the truth is you can do hanami just about anywhere if you’re only walking and admiring flowers. Well, sakura trees are not only found in parks!
Hanami in a park.
2. Picnic in a Park
Enjoying a picnic in a park underneath a sakura tree in full bloom is a common sight in Japan. The popular parks in Japan are often overcrowded and it is challenging to reserve a spot to do a picnic. Because of this, some people put their name on a piece of paper just to reserve a spot!
Picnics during hanami are great for people to get together. Japanese people usually bring some food and drinks over to celebrate the spring occasion and just spend time chatting with each other and enjoy the sakura atmosphere. Some parks even allow you to bring alcohol, so don’t be surprised to see some Japanese people getting rowdy here.
3. Get on a boat
Some sakura trees are planted alongside a river, so when the tree blooms it creates a beautiful row of pink. But instead of just the usual hanami stroll by the river, why not try viewing it from a different angle and be rewarded with a stunning view?
There are a few variations of hanami on water, such as riding or rowing a boat, paddling and even cruising. Different hanami locations offer different kinds of water transportation service, but nevertheless, it is a rewarding experience. When you are on the boat with sakura surrounding you on both sides, it is like a scene from a movie.
4. Night Illumination
Oh yes, this is an unusual hanami. But instead of using the word hanami, it is called “Yozakura” (夜桜), which means viewing sakura at night. When soft white light is shined onto sakura trees in full bloom, it brings out the original colour of the sakura. There are also other light colours, such as rainbow and yellowish-brown. If there are historical building nearby, it will also be lit up to complement the scene.
Yozakura usually starts from evening onwards and the closing time varies according to the location. Some illuminations end as late as 1 AM. So if you don’t have time to go for hanami during the day, why not have a yozakura?
5 Best Hanami Spots that you should check out
For a traveller who came all the way to Japan, don’t leave without a hanami experience. There are plenty hanami spots to visit, and I will introduce 5 places that you should check out.
1. Rikugien Garden
As one of the parks that have been around since hundreds of years ago, it emits its Edo period garden charms. There is even a traditional tea house here. From day to night, this place is bustling with people during spring. If you love gardens, this is the place you can go.
Address: 6 Chome-16-3 Honkomagome, Bunkyō, Tokyo 113-0021, Japan
Opening Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM
Night Illumination Hours: From evening to 9 PM
Fee: 300 yen
2. Lake Kawaguchiko
One of the Fuji Five Lakes, Lake Kawaguchiko is a place of attraction even outside of spring season. Along the northern shores of this lake are cherry blossom trees that make the view absolutely stunning when in full bloom. With the Mt. Fuji in sight, nothing could be better with than adding sakura to the picture. This place is suitable for strolling and just a walk along this path will make you relaxed.
Address: Fujikawaguchiko-machi, Minami-tsuru-gun
Opening Hours: 24 Hours
3. Yoyogi Park
Located in the heart of Tokyo, Yoyogi Park is a popular location with more than 600 cherry trees. It is a popular hanami picnic spot and also for strolling. There are food stalls in the park, selling snacks and seasonal food. To join in the fun, get some food and beverage, a mat, and you are ready for a picnic!
Address: 2-1 Yoyogi Kamizonocho, Shibuya 151-0052, Tokyo Prefecture
Opening Hours: 24 hours
4. Ueno Park
This is another hanami park that people like to come for a picnic. Here you can find a pond called Shinobazu Pond, shere you can rent a swan boat or a non-paddle boat and enjoy hanami on water.
Compared to Yoyogi Park, this one is more crowded, so come early if you want to reserve a spot to do picnic!
Address: Ueno-koen, 3 Ikenohata, Taito-ku
Opening Hours: 5 AM – 11 PM
Night Illumination Hours: 5.30 PM – 10 PM
5. Philosopher’s Path
This is a famous 2 km stone walkway along a canal in Kyoto. Cherry blossoms are planted along the two sides of the canal and the beauty of this place alone draw the crowds. it is said that this place has a cultural significance – a Japanese philosopher used to commute here frequently and it is probably how the place got its name.
Address: Sakyo-ku | between Ginkaku-ji and Nyakuoji-jinja, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture
Opening Hours: 24 hours
With such a beautiful of hanami locations in full bloom, what other else are you waiting for? Start planning a place to go for hanami, take gorgeous pictures, and enjoy a Japanese hanami experience!
Click here to read about the 2018 cherry blossom forecast.