If you’re lucky enough to be in Japan during cherry blossom season, you’re in for a beautiful treat. Every year usually between February and May, trees all over the country bloom to create the iconic sea of pink. Historically cherry blossoms were important to the Japanese because they signified the rice-planting season. Now, however, they are celebrated more for their temporal beauty, which is seen to represent life itself.
Hanami, also known as the “cherry blossom festival,” is a long-standing Japanese custom celebrating the fleeting beauty of nature and welcoming spring. When the cherry blossoms bloom, tradition is that everyone, tourists and locals alike, heads to local parks and gardens and joins together to celebrate with food and drink. The whole country of Japan goes through somewhat of a picnic party, in which everyone takes part to appreciate the sakura (cherry blossoms).
The cherry blossom festival is the most popular tourist season in Japan, not only because of the beautiful pink world that emerges, but also because the temperate spring is the ideal weather lying between a generally frigid winter and a hot and humid summer. However, the festival itself varies by location and year because bloom times are weather and climate dependent. A warmer winter may lead to earlier blossoms, and there’s only a small window of opportunity to see them, as once the flowers bloom, they only stick around for about a week or two before falling. Typically, the cherry blossoms begin in Okinawa in February, spread up to mid-Japan in March or April, and finish up north in Hokkaido in May.
If you get the chance to visit Japan during the cherry blossom festival, be aware that the times can vary, and plan your trip accordingly. Once you reach your destination city (Tokyo is a great start), find a park, riverbank, or garden lined with trees, pack your food and drinks, and head on down to celebrate the magical pink world of cherry blossoms.