Can you feel the change in the air? Spring has returned!! The mercury has hit the 20s and the cherry blossoms have started to show their pretty faces!
It’s a great time to be in Japan. The whole country seems to be buzzing with excitement. In Tokyo, the sakura (cherry blossom tree) season officially began on March 23rd, and the flowers should be in full bloom in a couple of days time. I’ve already been to 3 sakura viewing spots in Tokyo, and will hit up lots more places over the next week! It’s a good thing I’m on spring holidays right now – no work, all play!
As you can imagine, the sakura are kind of a big deal in Japan. Of course, there are many people who actually take the time to appreciate their beauty and delicate nature, but I feel like the flowers are becoming increasingly over-commercialised (as much as is possible for a flower, anyway!). Businesses sure know how to capitalise on the popularity of something. From sakura-flavoured ice cream, to special sakura packaging, to whole station entrances being covered in images of sakura, for about 2 months of the year it is pink pink pink everywhere! It reminds me of Christmas time when everything turns red and green, the department stores become packed with Christmas trees and decorations, and Christmas jingles are played 24/7. The novelty factor can be a bit too much sometimes, but I think it’s fun to change things up with these limited edition products. It definitely keeps things interesting!
While the nation becomes sakura-ized, meteorologists have the very serious and extremely high-pressure job of predicting when the sakura will actually bloom. The whole country relies on the information they give! The sakura forecast maps start to appear around early to mid-March, and people immediately start planning their hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties! This year, the predicted season start date (when the buds begin to open) was March 24th, with the best viewing period happening between April 1st-8th. It’s literally a show that lasts less than 3 weeks. Is there any other flower that has this short of a lifespan??
If you thought that was insanely precise, wait to you see what happens next. In the week before the forecasted season, things get even more serious. We start to see live maps that show what stage of blooming the flowers are at. At my favourite event website, Walkerplus, we can see the progress through 7 stages. It starts with つぼみ (buds), then comes 咲き始め (starting to bloom), ５分咲き (50% bloomed), ７分咲き (70% bloomed), 満開 (full bloom), 散り始め (starting to fall), and lastly 青葉 (green leaves).
Spring is a fun time to be in Japan. I will never get sick of it! If you want to visit Japan and see the cherry blossoms, it’s really a gamble as to when they’ll be fully bloomed, but being here before/after April 1st is usually a safe bet. There are early and late blooming varieties anyway, so even if you miss the peak period you’ll still be able to enjoy this spectacle!