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Seasons in Japan

Seasons in Japan

Cherry Blossom Season in Tokyo, Japan - The History

Deryk Bliss

Deryk Bliss
An escapee from Northern B.C., "Dez" has made Japan home for the last 10 years. When not turning out for the illustrious Saitama Jets or turning up on a ski slope somewhere, he can be found in tireless investigation in his quest to find the perfect craft beer. At least so he claims.


Tokyo Cherry Blossom Season - The History | Tokyo Hanami Spots | Spring Dining Out


Tokyo is many things- busy, dynamic, vibrant, complex. One thing it is not, however, is what one might call “aesthetically pleasing” (though in fairness the night view is pretty spectacular). Aside from various examples of architectural amazement and pockets of natural beauty, Tokyo has- like any city that would have the population of Canada moving through it on a daily basis- an emphasis on functionality over pleasing the eye. That is except for a few short weeks in spring when the thousands of sakura, or cherry-blossom, trees that reside throughout the city, flourish and bloom and cover the city in a quite stunning natural canopy of white and pink.


Cherry Blossom Ueno Cherry Blossom Ueno


Like many things that have such a strong cultural resonance, there is some debate as to where the practice of hanami or cherry-blossom viewing, first came about. There is evidence to suggest that the practice of nobility enjoying cherry-blossom viewing was a Chinese import from about the Nara period (circa 7th century). However, there is also a mention of what could be construed as hanami viewing in the Nihon Shoki, or Chronicles of Japan which date from much earlier (about the 3rd century) and would have been a Japanese innovation. Either way, it seems the trees themselves made a lengthy journey from the Himalaya region to their present home here over the nation of Japan and have since been developed into approximately 305 varieties of sakura tree.


The actual practice of the hanami party dates from the time of Emperor Saga in the Heian Era, who followed on from an earlier tradition of offerings of food and drink at sakura trees, by making it a full-blown picnic under these amazing cherry-blossoms. The first mention of a hanami party comes in the Genji Monogatari, Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu (itself the world’s first published novel). By the Edo era, thanks to widespread distribution of the sakura trees, everyone from the Royal Family to the common person were enjoying hanami parties.


The cultural importance of these trees with their beautiful, delicate and short-lived flowers cannot be overemphasized. The metaphor of the short but beautiful life of these blossoms has infused everything from the samurai code of conduct to numerous haiku to more enka ballads and popular art scenes than could be counted. The sakura blossom even adorns the jersey of Japan’s national rugby team. The modern equivalent of the hanami party has successfully melded the appreciation of these amazing scenes with the Japanese love of having a good time. Simply put, this is one of the best times of year to be in this city, or indeed Japan at large!

• Author & family experience and links there from
• An Introduction to Japanese Culture, Macmillan Language House, 2000

Next Article: Popular Tokyo Hanami Locations



Cherry Blossom Tours

Looking to make the most of the cherry blossom season?
Here are some tours that may interest you:
Tokyo Sakura Mecca Tour, Western Tokyo Sakura Tour, Yokohama Sakura Tour, Sakura Eco River Cruise (Tokyo), Funaoka Sakura & Sendai Tour, Kyoto Sakura Picnic Tour (Kyoto), Kyoto Sakura Picnic Tour (Tokyo), Northern Japan Sakura & Onsen Tour



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