It’s almost cherry blossom time in Japan. Did you know that there is a website that tracks sakura blossoms, similar to those that track the fall colors in New England? If you’re planning a trip to Japan, you should check it out: Cherry blossom forecast.
We were lucky to be there in the spring of 2016. Sakura are definitely worth seeing, at least once, although we found the crowds in some cities unbearable.
Because we planned to see relatives there, we started our trip in Kumamoto which is in the South.
Here, at the Kumamoto Castle, blossoms were just beginning.
Slightly farther north, near Osaka, we were too early to see blossoms that surround Himeji Castle like this,
instead it looked like this:
Still beautiful though. Then we spent a few days in Hiroshima and Miyajima, and got to Kyoto on Thursday March 31––just in time for a weekend in Kyoto at the height of the season. Bad idea. The crowds were crazy-making––traffic jammed the roadways and, even walking, one could sometimes barely move.
That said, we were very happy that we were there to actually see the cherry blossoms. We met up with a friend from Okayama, who had visited us as a college student, and retreated with her to a restaurant for a nice, quiet lunch.
In Kyoto, we did enjoy Philosopher’s Path, which we managed to see on a peaceful day.
People dress up in rented kimono for their picture-taking sessions.
My favorite blossom sightings were in the countryside, from the train.
Cherry trees are everywhere. And, wherever there are trees and they are allowed to picnic, families picnic. “Flower viewing,” called hanami, is a favorite pastime in Japan and fun to see. Here is a list of what you need to hanami. All such lists tell you to bring your own garbage bags––this country has no litter.
Our number one favorite site for sakura was a week later, in Tokyo, where blossoms were still in full bloom.
Our guide took us to a great viewing spot. He said that we were across the moat from the Emperor’s castle. When I look on Google Maps, I think we must have been at Chidori-ga-fuchi Park. Not as crowded as Kyoto areas, and beautiful. I recommend it.
If we were to go again, I would avoid Kyoto on a weekend at sakura time, and would aim to spend more days in the villages and mountain areas, versus the cities.
With or without the cherry blossoms, the landscape of Japan displays plenty of beauty, and no litter.
Date of travel: late March, early April 2016.
Hotels, trains, and tour guides arranged through IACE Travel, Saratoga, CA.