Follow the Parade of Cherry Blossom Festivals and Parties in Japan
Japan springs into party and festival mode with the appearance of cherry blossoms. From mid-March to April’s end, national TV news concludes with a cherry blossom forecast. The climb of the pale petaled wonders from Japan’s subtropical Okinawa to the tippy top island of Hokkaido is announced. (Okinawans start their festivals in late January. Hokkaido farmers typically celebrate in late April or early May.)
Hirosaki Castle in Aomori hosts their annual famous festival between April 23rd and May 5th. (A hop and a jump across the Tsugaru Strait and you’re in Hokkaido.) Celebrating a centennial of cherry blossom festivals in 2017, the Hirosaki Festival will run until May 7th this year. This is sakura (cherry blossom in Japanese) enchantment at its best. You and the kidlets can row in the castle moat. In the evening, you can cuddle with your spouse as the cherry blossoms are illuminated. (Lights illumine the sakura during Tokyo’s Bokutei Festival, too.) The pale pinks and white petals blanketing Hirosaki Park are impressive, too.
Speaking of blankets, when sakura appear, Japanese flock to their neighborhood parks for picnics. While they are not official festivals, there is much celebration. You will hear lots of singing. Many toasts to the pretty blossoms with sake and beer will be seen. The newest picnic tradition includes barbecue! Not kidding. People rent or bring grills to the park and make their own yakitori (skewered grilled chicken.) Yakisoba noodles (fried, greasy and sooo good) are also au courant. Times have changed. Traditionally, Japanese bring bento boxes. (Typically artistically arranged rice, protein and veggies.)
There is no place like home. But many will travel to Kanazawa’s revered Kenrokuen. It’s one of a triplet of gardens recognized as a cultural heritage site. (Okayama’s Korakuen and Mito’s Kairakuen complete the trio.)
Others will hike up Mount Yoshino whose 30,000 cherry blossoms are spectacular. This is for you if you are in good health. AND love crowds! Snack shops abound so you can skip long restaurant lines. Reserved seating on trains, however, is limited.
Himeji Castle, the White Heron, untouched by WWII bombs is exquisite any time of year. This national treasure is breathtaking when cherry blossoms are present. Himeji Castle is definitely do-able as a day trip if staying in Kyoto or Osaka. (If in Tokyo, you’ll need to catch an earlier morning train.)
Double pleasure is also enjoyed at Mt. Fuji viewing hotspots like Hakone. Actually, if you go to Hakone during cherry blossom season, it’s triple pleasure. You’ll get to view the gorgeous sakura, soak in Hakone’s famous hot spring baths AND gasp at the majesty of Mt. Fuji!
If you want to join the cherry blossom party in Japan, here’s a link to ascertain when and where you should travel.
Despite the myriad of cherry blossom parties and festivals throughout Japan, sakura are sacred. It’s the harbinger of spring, of hope. No wonder more Japanese songs have the word “sakura” (cherry blossom.) “Love” only comes in second.
Japanese haiku master Kobayashi Issa declared:
Even an old man
has New Year’s eyes…
Wishing you a spring bursting with hope and happiness.
The Ninja Baker
© ™ Watkinson 2012
The Ninja Baker has guest blogged and contributed recipes to numerous food sites. These additional recipes can be found here.