Sakura viewing in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park

Sakura painting in Tokyo, Japan

By the end of March and for one month, the season of the flowers arrives in every corner of Tokyo in a spectacular way, shaking off what’s left of Japan’s winter with the beautiful blossoming of the sakura trees, or the cherry trees.

Likewise, people take to the parks with families, friends and coworkers to smear away the memories of cold and snow and passionately welcome the beginning of the new fiscal/school year.

Sakura is a flower with huge symbology in Japan. Its blossoming is a metaphore of life’s transitional nature.

When the flowers fall from the trees to the grass, it marks the beginning of another earthly cycle. In this cycle, new things will spring in our lives and new developments will take over, and other things will die and become our past.

That is, until we get together again under the sakura trees to celebrate the vitality and beauty of it all.

Sakura in Sagamihara, Kanagawa
Sakura trees on the streets of Sagamihara, in Kanagawa

The practice of viewing the sakura is centuries-old. It is commonly referred to as hanami, where “hana” means “flower” and “mi” means “to see”.

During these days, and specially in the weekends, hordes of people take over every park in the country that is blossoming, and it all becomes a colorful festival with all sorts of picnic food, drinks, music, shows, pets, frisbee throwing, outdoor beer pong, passed out foreigners, passed out locals, bizarre outfits, weird families, normal families and disloyal wives and husbands.

This time of the year, in a park like Yoyogi, which is located next to the busy and crowded Harajuku ward, one can practically experience the whole human spectrum that inhabits Tokyo.

I keep a lot of great and fun memories (as well as new friends) from those weekends at the park!

Hanami in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo

As this marks the beginning of the season, so there are many spring kick-off parties and company lunches whose organizers show up really early to get a good spot in the park.

Yoyogi Park is a bit more than half a square kilometer, so lots of people can fit inside.

Sakura viewing in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo

As the Sun begins to set, and the night closes in, hanami parties start to get wilder and wilder.

The crowds start to run out of alcohol, conversations get more intimate, and people here and there decide it’s the perfect time to strip naked.

In the weekends of the hanami season, every love hotel from Omotesando to Shibuya in Tokyo is full every evening.

Hanami in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo

When: different for every region. The blossoming can start as early as January in the southernmost subtropical islands, and it makes its way northwards from there. In Tokyo, it starts by the end of March and lasts for one month.

Where: everywhere! Sakura trees are in most parks throughout the country. Most common spots in Tokyo are Yoyogi Park, Shinjuku Gyoen, Ueno Park and along Meguro River.

Did you know about this tradition? Is there anything similar in your country? Let me know in the comments below!

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