We’re in Japan for Sakura – cherry blossom season.

Probably the most photographed trees in the world. Japanese cherry trees.

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.

Our first small park in Tokyo and our first sight of folks in traditional clothing having photos taken.

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.

Dramatic lighting made the blossoms pop.
A stunning arrangement of trees and lighting.

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.

Up close you can see the differences in the blossoms.
I’m sure many folks know the trees by blossom sight- we don’t!
You simply can’t stop yourself from taking photos. Every tree offers a unique moment you want to capture.
This might be the only time I see this, you think as you snap away. Blue sky makes a dramatic background.

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.

The bright green of spring makes a perfect foil for the blooms at Tokyo Midtown.
A temporary lounge set up among the trees of midtown.
A single tree changes the feel of a street.

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.

Kenroku-en garden in Kanazawa. Normally a paid entry, the garden is free during Sakura.
A temple garden on a morning walk around Kanazawa.
Another random burst of blossoms on a bike ride outside of Kanazawa.

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.

Photo taken on the grounds of Kanazawa castle by a friendly local woman.
Pose your husband in yet another stunning tree.
Trees reflected in the moat of Kanazawa castle.
A view from above of the trees in Kenroku-en garden.

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.

Himeji Castle.
Alongside a canal in Himeji is a line of perfectly blooming trees.
A tree this size is likely about one hundred years old.
A venerable tree on Naoshima Island, getting some help with wooden struts.

After the bloom comes the time of Sakura snow. The petals blowing off and drifting, or, if it’s raining, sticking.

This would be a wonderful permanent paint job for this Tokyo car.
Petal confetti on a stone lantern base at Shikoku Mura (Village), Yashima
The fallen petals call your attention to the landscape.
Hana Ikada, or flower rafts. This is a sparse but beautiful version with just a few petals floating.
Drifts of petals on a footpath in Takamatsu, at Ritsurin Garden.

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.

The happy travelers at Kanazawa Castle.

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?