Chasing cherry blossom in Japan

Cherry blossom (sakura) is a big thing in Japan. Its beauty is celebrated with ‘hanami’ or cherry blossom viewing parties with family and friends held in parks, shrines and temples across the country. The blossoms are such an integral part of Japanese culture that they even feature on the 100 yen coin! We knew that by arriving in Japan in the second week of April we had a chance of catching the blooming time but when we checked the forecast (yes there is such a thing) from Singapore it looked as if we would be too late for everywhere except the far north which we weren’t planning to visit at the start of our trip. Our search for the sakura was reminiscent of the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Too hot…

We arrived in Nagoya, in the centre of the southern coast of Honshu, Japan’s main island, and although there were a few flowers left we were about a week too late.

20140424-172754.jpgThis cherry tree lined path near Nagoya Castle must have looked stunning in full bloom

20140505-084151.jpgThere were a few late blooming trees like this well placed one near the main tower of Nagoya Castle

Too cold…

Our next destination was Takayama in the mountains north of Nagoya. Aha we thought, a higher altitude might mean later blossoming, and indeed it did except that this time we were too early!

20140424-173329.jpgIt had been very cold in Takayama for the week preceding our visit and the flowers hadn’t quite woken up although they were tantalisingly close

Just right…

From Takayama we travelled north-west to Kanazawa on the northern coast of Honshu. We were expecting the situation here to be similar to Nagoya but as the train moved down from the mountains we started to notice cherry trees in full bloom and hope started to grow. At last our timing was good, we spent a couple of hours wandering through the Kenroku-en garden admiring the many trees.

20140424-174759.jpgBeautiful, almost sculptural cherry tree in Kanazawa Castle Park

20140424-174806.jpgCherry trees lining a stream in Kenrokuen Garden

20140424-174816.jpgBlossom close up

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