February signals onset of Hanami in Japan

Cherry blossoms spots across the island nation
/ New Delhi
February signals onset of Hanami in Japan

Sakura-season is no less than a dreamy in Japan, which brings together everyone the young and the old

When one thinks of Japan at this time of the year, dreamy scenes of postcard cities awash in delicate pink blooms are inextricably associated. Symbolising both life and death, beauty and violence, the springtime bloom is a celebrated event across the country, and here are some less crowded spots.
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Cherry blossoms or sakura, as it is also known in Japan, reach their pink-peak in March to April. Hanami or flower-viewing can be cherished in most parts of Japan as early as February in southern Japan, particularly in Okinawa Prefecture and lasts up to May in the northern part of Hokkaido Prefecture. Okinawa’s sakura possesses a unique charm against the backdrop of turquoise seas and lush greenery.

In the northern regions such as Hokkaido, sakura blooms later and lasts longer, due to the typically cooler climate in May. Hokkaido has its own spellbinding flower displays with fields of vivid tulips and lavender spreading across land in the warmer months.

In a press statement, the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) lists some of places where visitors can enjoy a more tranquil experience, free from the crowds that inundate popular sakura viewing spots elsewhere.

Not all cherry trees are alike: Okinawa 


Okinawa’s cherry blossoms have a bell shape and hang down from the tree

Okinawa sees the earliest blooming cherry blossoms in all of Japan, and offers great sightseeing opportunities in spring. The cherry blossoms’ arrival marks the pinnacle of the Japanese year. Young and old celebrate the fleeting beauty of these delicate flowers. Okinawa has a subtropical climate, which means it is the first place in Japan to enjoy the festivities. From mid-January to mid-February, dark pink blossoms bring joy to Okinawa’s islands. In Okinawa, the cherry trees not only bloom earlier than in mainland Japan, but the flowers are quite different. The most common Japanese cherry trees are the Yoshino cherry (Somei-Yoshino) and the hill cherry (yamazakura). Both trees produce delicate blossoms that are pale pink, almost white. The most common variety of cherry tree in Okinawa is the hikanzakura, also known as the Ryukyu kanhizakura. Okinawa’s cherry blossoms have a bell shape and hang down from the tree. The petals are dark pink compared to the almost white petals of the Yoshino cherry.

Sites to see : Nakijin Castle

Chilly breeze & cherry blossoms: Hokkaido


Hokkaido hosts many flower-viewing picnic spots

In Hokkaido, located north of Honshu, the flowering of cherry blossoms starts around the end of April. At Moerenuma Park in Sapporo, which has about 1,900 cherry blossom trees, the blooming period starts from mid to late May. Same with Hakodate Park, which has plenty of cherry blossoms as well as the sea, and Otaru Park, which treats visitors to cherry blossoms in bloom and an expansive view of the harbour. The average temperature in Hokkaido in April is 7℃, while in May, it is 12℃, cold in the morning and evening. In Honshu, people often pack light meals, such as rice balls and sandwiches, when they go cherry blossom viewing, but in Hokkaido, visitors eat Jingisukan hot pot or Mongolian mutton barbecue.

Sites to see : Hakodate Goryokaku Park, Hokkaido Shrine, Noboribetsu Cherry Blossoms Rows, Matsumae Park

Snow & sakura: Tohoku 


In Tohoku, visitors can enjoy more than 1,000 cherry trees and mountains covered with snow

In the Tohoku region, visitors can enjoy different blooming periods by location, so there is a good chance to spot them later in April or even May. One of the earliest to bloom in the region is the cherry blossoms in Hanamiyama Park. The whole expanse of the area is a paradise of blooming cherry blossoms and a variety of flowers, tinged with the colours of spring. The blooming of the Hitome Senbonzakura follows, where rows of cherry trees stretch for about 8 km and visitors can enjoy more than 1,000 cherry trees and mountains covered with snow.

Sites to see : Hanamiyama Park, Kakunodate’s Bukeyashiki District, Hirosaki Castle

Under the shrines: Tochigi 


Nikko Kaido Sakura Route hosts 1,500 cherry blossom trees

Originally built for the nobles of the Tokugawa clan on their way from Tokyo to Nikko, the Nikko Kaido Sakura Route hosts 1,500 cherry blossom trees. The area is dotted with small shrines and beautiful trees, perfect for walking. The Nikko Kaido Route is ranked among the best places in Japan for cherry blossom viewing. The trees are densely planted along the roadside creating a tunnel of pink. Sakura blooms in Tochigi are usually a little later than Tokyo, typically blooming in early April.

Sites to see : Nikko Kaido Sakura Route

Mountain in bloom : Yoshino blossoms


Almost 30,000 cherry trees cover Mount Yoshino

A trail through small mountain villages and thousands of cherry blossoms will lead to the top of Mt Yoshino, a view unlike any other in Japan. Almost 30,000 cherry trees cover Mount Yoshino, the oldest in Japan and home to several temples and shrines.

Sites to see : The Shimo, lower, and Naka, middle, areas of Mt Yoshino

A tunnel of pink & white : Hiroshima


Sazanami Skyline Road is lined with a variety of different cherry trees in bloom during spring

Mount Noro, overlooking the port of Kure in Hiroshima Prefecture, is a beautiful destination year round but especially so in spring. During that season, travel along the Sazanami Skyline Road which stretches from Kure’s Kawajiri Town at the foot of the mountain to the summit at 839 m. The observation deck there has an unparalleled view out across the islands of the Seto Inland Sea. Visitors can also clearly see the popular Tobishima Kaidō cycle route linking seven of the sea’s islands. In spring, a variety of different cherry trees all come into bloom, creating a long tunnel of pink and white blossoms on the mountain. After cherry blossom season, the mountain turns into a lush green during summer and then golden hues burst through the canopy in autumn.

Sites to see : Observation deck at Kawajiri Town

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