It’s hanami time! Cherry blossom season in Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe.

3 Apr

The coming on spring is not a small occasion in Japan. It’s not a subtle and slow change from the brown and gray of winter to the new green of summer. It’s an explosion of white, pink and purple as the peach, plum and cherry trees blossom all over the country. The weather gets much warmer and it’s time for a party!

Sakura in Shukugawa.

Sakura in Shukugawa.

Hanami (flower viewing) is when everyone gathers with friends and family under the sakura (cherry blossoms) to spread out their leisure mats (tarps) and enjoy food, drink, games and many photo shoots with the blossoms. The tradition is thought to go as far back as the 8th century. Depending on the varietal, most cherry blossoms only last a week or two, so it’s really a time to seize the occasion and get outdoors.

Hanami parties at Maruyama Park.

Hanami parties at Maruyama Park.

This past weekend, the trees were in full bloom in many areas in Kansai. I took full advantage with three straight days of hanami. After a short day of training at work on Saturday, a group of teachers and I went to Osaka castle park, one of the greenest spots in the city with a range of blossoming trees.

Hiding in a plum (?) tree at Osaka castle park.

Hiding in a plum (?) tree at Osaka castle park.

Sunday saw a trip to Kyoto to visit Maruyama Park, which is just behind the well-known Yasaka shrine. This was a very popular hanami spot with many families having picnics, teenagers curled up in sleeping bags playing video games and coworkers sharing large bottles of beer. There were food and drink stalls lining the walkways and even a haunted house, in case the sakura are too relaxing!

A weeping cherry tree in Maruyama Park.

A weeping cherry tree in Maruyama Park.

We also wandered Kiyomizu Temple, close to Yasaka shrine, which had many ponds and gardens accented by sakura.

As I have Mondays off, it was time for even more hanami. We visited Shukugawa, which is on the Hankyu line to Kobe, and has a long river lined with cherry trees.

Each bank of the river in Shukugawa was lining with groups of people enjoying hanami.

Each bank of the river in Shukugawa was lining with groups of people enjoying hanami.

The whole weekend was such a nice introduction to a beloved holiday in Japan. The sakura are beautiful and the Japanese celebrate them, which is great to see. It’s also a fantastic way to welcome the beginning of summer!

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