SAKURA – Japan’s Spring Icon

SAKURA – Japan’s Spring Icon – Why don’t you come to Japan to enjoy the country’s spring colored in pale pink with lovely cherry blossoms? You will be moved by the breath taking scenery in every region. Here, we would like to present you how to enjoy sakura especially in Tokyo or its outskirts. Since ancient times, we have lived with great sensibility and respect for the nature that changes every season in colorful ways.  In other words, Japanese culture has developed with natural beauty. We love flowers and plants which tell us coming seasons. Especially, for us Japanese, sakura (cherry blossoms) stands for the most charming season, spring. Sakura is the one in a million, the best and the most special of all flowers for Japanese people. (Source:Wikipedia) 2 Speaking of sakura, you would imagine The Somei Yoshino which is a variety of sakura and occupies roughly 80% of all sakura trees in Japan. Cherry blossoms come out little by little from the south toward the north (Kyūshū to Hokkaidō) approximately between the end of March and May. Once sakura trees blossom, they are in full in 5 or 7 days, and later petals begin to fall down like dancing in the wind, which is impressive and touching. Flowers live only about 10 days of a year, so they are precious and transient for Japanese people. However, the flowering period depends on climate, temperature during winter time of each year and regions, so make sure to check very carefully the sakura forecast when you plan your travel. Sakura forecast 2015. The forecast begins in February or in early March. Japan Guide: The Bloom of Cherry Blossoms: You can not find the Somei Yoshino in Okinawa, located in the subtropical area. We will explain it later. (Img: (Source: 1 Hanami Spots Hanami means literally flower viewing. The following spots are ideal for hanami. Tokyo: Kanda Shrine, Hibiya Park, Yasukuni Shrine, Hamarikyu gardens, Roppongi Hills, Tokyo Midtown, Rikugien Garden, Showa Kinen Park, Kinuta Park, Imperial Palace,  Inokashira Park. Yokohama: Mitsuike Park, Sankeien, Negishi, Mitsuzawa Park. (Img: Imperial Palace

(Source: 3   (Img: Nogawa, Chofu city (Source: 4 Find your own Hanami Styles Why don’t you doing hanami like Japanese do? Here are 3 ways. Hanami in park Sitting under the sakura trees and feeling gentle wind will make your lunch or supper time unforgettable. Just bring with you blanket or rug, some bottles of beverage and obentō (lunch box). In case you don’t have blanket, you can buy a picnic sheet in a 100 yen shop. (Img: (Source: 5 – 100 yen shops: CanDo: Daiso: Please respect the following manner: No damaging trees by breaking off twigs. No annoying other people around. No leaving garbage. No smoking. River cruising Most parks are crowded with people and sometimes it is hard to find your space for hanami picnic. If you don’t get annoyed, we recommend you get on Yakatabune (boat in the pic) and cruise along river. Some agencies offer lunch or dinner. (Img: Yakatabune (Source: 6   Amikou: Voyagin: Sakura view restaurants In spring time, sometimes we see unstable weather. If you don’t want to worry about rain, why don’t you reserve restaurants with lovely scene? – Canal Cafe (Italian restaurant) Address: 1 Chome-9 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-0825 Tel: 03-3260-8068 Fax: 03-3260-8052 – Thrush Café (French restaurant) Address: 1 Chome-1-1, Happo-en, Shirokanedai, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-8631 Tel: 03-3443-3105 – Miyuki Miyuki is located in Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo Address: Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo 2F, 10-8, Sekiguchi 2-Chome, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo. 112-8680 Tel:03-3943-5489 Artistic confectionary In cherry blossoms season, if you come across cakeries, you will be attracted by plenty of sweets likened to sakura, which include ingredients in season such as berries, matcha (powdered green tea), sakura petals picked in salt and so on. (Img: (Source: 7   Not only traditional Japanese sweets such as sakura-mochi (pink rice cake covered in a sakura leaf), also you will find everywhere occidental or half Western and half Japanese sweets such as cakes, macarons, cookies, mousse chocolates and etc. (Img: (Source:  The same as above. Copyright free.) 8 The best spots to buy Sakura related foods are in Depachika (department store’s basement food floor) such as Tokyu, Keio, Sogo, Odakyu, Isetan, Mitsukoshi, Seibu etc, where you can find an ideal obentō (lunch box), too. (Img: (Source: 9 Sweets by the major convenience stores Major convenient stores like Seven Eleven, Family Mart, Lawson and etc also offer sakura sweets. You must not make light of the quality, though they are sold for reasonable price. Some sweets may be supervised by a famous chef, or well studied and elaborated. You will know how high the standard of Japan’s convenience store is. Large confectionery chains Ginza Cozy Corner and Fujiya are known for having various types of cakes, sizeable cream puffs and etc. You can get them at reasonable price. Here are two links to the major confectioners. (Only in Japanese) Ginza Cozy Corner Fujiya (Img: Copyright free. Photo taken by the writer) 10   The varieties of cherry blossoms Did you know that? There are more than 600 varieties of Sakura. In this section, we are going to pick up some photogenic and gorgeous varieties other than the Somei Yoshino. Kanhizakura (Okinawa) In the previous section, we said “No Somei Yoshino in Okinawa prefecture”. It is because they need cold temperature for blooming. In the subtropical islands of Okinawa, the Kanhizakura is Okinawa’s Sakura and blooms from late January to early February.

(Img: (Source: SONY DSC   In Nago city, they celebrate Sakura festival during 2 days. People are dancing and you can see a dynamic Taiko (drum) show under blooming cherry blossoms. Also you can enjoy events such as a photo exhibition and fantastic illuminations at night. What’s curious about the Kanhizakura is that, they begin to bloom from the north toward the south, while the Somei Yoshino from the south to the north. It is because the Kanhizakura needs cold temperature to bloom and the north area is colder than the south. Note the Somei Yoshino needs much colder temperature for longer time than the Kanhizakura, that’s why the Somei Yoshino is not seen in the subtropical zone. Weeping Cherry trees They have weeping branches like willow. The exquisite scenery will definitely remind you of an ukiyo-e print or Japanese ancient art. Flowering period: almost the same as the Somei Yoshino View Points (Tokyo): Rikugien and Koishikawa Kōrakuen Garden. (Img: (Source: 12 Kawazuzakura This sakura has its origin in Kawazu-cho in Shizuoka prefecture. It is known for its early bloom (February) and lasts long nearly a month. Festival is held every year and at night the trees are lit up Access: Get off at Kawazu station on Izu Kyuko Line. There are lots of Kawazuzakura Trees along several kilometers. (Img: (Source: ) ) 13 Yaezakura Unlike the Somei Yoshino, petals of the Yaezakura has sevral sizeable layers. Flowering period: a bit later than the Somei Yoshino View points:  Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Hamarikyu Gardens, Chidorigafuchi Park and Ueno Onshi Park. (Img: (Source: 14

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