Our arrival in Tokyo happened to coincide with an early cherry blossom season. We had already made our flight and room reservations when a representative from Japan Meteorological Agency stood beneath a signal tree at Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine and announced the season to be underway.
Unfortunately, it was a rainy stretch in Tokyo as the fun got underway. Fortunately, we don’t melt. Parks and gardens are prime blossom viewing spots of course. So off we went. First was a night time cherry blossom event where the trees were lit up. It was beautiful, and wet. Very wet. But picking through the mud puddles was worth it to see huge trees and bamboo lit up with dramatic intensity.
On a dry Friday as we wandered parks filled with blooming trees we overheard other blossom peepers talking about what variety of cherry trees we were seeing. There are over 100 varieties of cherry trees in Japan, a few are wild and native to the forests, but most are cultivated. These trees don’t produce edible fruit, but flowers are pickled and used as tea and in other confections. We love seeing a forest mountain dotted with blooming trees mixed in with conifers and maples.
Blooming trees are not confined to parks. As we walked around Tokyo we found allées of blooming trees, or simply single trees, putting on a show worthy of admiration.
We left Tokyo for Kanazawa where we had a new batch of parks and gardens to explore. And a lovely castle. And more cherry blossoms to photograph.
You find new ways to view the blossoms, hyper aware that the blossom season is fleeting. People are super friendly and nice about snapping photos of each other. Cherry blossoms bring you all together in one place, for the purpose of admiring the beauty, and recording this fleeting moment.
Hemeji, which was a day trip from Kobe for us, has one of Japan’s most stunning castles. And with the blooms it was a crowded site. Rich got us there as early as we could, and it was worth braving the crowds. I’m particularly taken with the old trees – gnarled trunks, branches propped up with bamboo poles.
After the bloom comes the time of Sakura snow. The petals blowing off and drifting, or, if it’s raining, sticking.
Being here in Japan for Sakura was a happy accident. We assumed we would be too early to see the bloom in Tokyo, but Sakura has been earlier than usual the past few years. If you do come to Japan for Sakura, be aware that hotel prices go way up. Rich booked our place in Tokyo before the season was announced, post announcement he looked to extend our four night stay and a single night extra would have cost as much as the four nights together.
We’re in Japan for two more weeks before moving on to Korea. We feel so lucky to have seen Sakura in a variety of cities and landscapes. Cherry blossoms and a Japan Rail Pass, what more could we want?