Cherry blossom is very transitory. The clouds of delicate flowers in all shades from white through pastel pinks to the gentle magentas are at their best for only a few days in spring. Wet and windy weather in boisterous March often ensures the season is short.
Most often associated with the culture of Japan cherry blossom features in several Far Eastern cultures. To the Japanese, the blossom of the cherry tree is an important symbol. The flower’s brief appearance symbolises the transience, and fragility of life. The blooming season is celebrated with hanami, a family picnic under the blossom-laden branches in the many parks all over Japan.
However, Japan is not the only place to see cherry blossoms en masse. As the list below shows there are some surprising places to see the mass of flowering cherry trees.
Japan – Osaka, Tokyo and Kyoto
While there are hundreds of parks filled with cherry trees in Japan Hirosaki Park in the north of Honshu Island is deemed the best for seeing the cherry blossoms. Over 2600 trees and over 50 different varieties surround a castle built in 1611. The Sakura Tunnel created by cherry trees and a night visit when the trees are illuminated by lanterns are the highlights of a visit.
Osaka, Tokyo and Kyoto all have their parks where cherry blossoms abound in spring. Ueno Park in Tokyo is one of the first public parks and features more than 1000 trees. As you can imagine, being in Tokyo it is one of the most crowded and noisy of all cherry blossom sites. Kyoto is one of the more traditional cities in Japan and is a great place to view cherry blossom in a more fitting traditional setting.
In 1912 Japan gave 3000 cherry trees to the City of Washington DC. These were planted around the Washington Memorial, East Potomac Park and the Tidal Basin. Every year the flowering of the trees is celebrated with the National Cherry Blossom Festival from the end of March through to mid-April.
In spring residents and visitors alike are treated to the blooming of 40,000 cherry trees across Vancouver. The best places to see them are in Stanley Park and Queen Elizabeth Park. The latter has several varieties of cherry trees each flowering at different times extending the blooming season from early March to late April.
Stockholm’s Kungsträdgården is a relative newcomer to the cherry blossom cities. Although the park dates back to the Middle Ages the 63 cherry trees that line an open plaza were only planted in 1998. Each year since then Stockholm residents and visitors come to stroll and picnic beneath the flowering trees.
The best place in Spain to see cherry blossom is not in a city park but in a valley in a rural setting. The Jerte Valley contains over two million cherry trees and when the snow white flowers briefly appear it looks like frost covering the hillside. A week-long festival, Fiesta del Cerezo en Flor, celebrates the cherry blossom with markets and exhibitions.
This is one place I did not expect when researching this list. Over a century ago Japanese began immigrating to Brazil and brought their cherished cherry tree seedlings. It is not uncommon to see cherry blossom in Brazil as it has the largest population of Japanese outside of Japan. The best place to see the cherry blossom is the Botanical Garden of Curitiba, however, being the southern hemisphere the flowering season is in July and August.
Other places to see cherry blossom
The list is not exhaustive and there are other places to visit and enjoy the blossom of the cherry tree. The South Korean cities of Busan and Seoul, Gucun Park in Shanghai are alternative Asian destinations. In Europe Paris, Bonn and Britain’s Kew Gardens are places to visit to see cherry blossom. In North America, Macon, Georgia and New York’s Botanical Gardens are worth visiting.
The flowering season can vary considerably depending on the weather and environmental conditions so a little research is essential. After carefully planning a holiday to see these delicate flowers blooming en masse you may be disappointed.
This list only covers some of the places to visit to see cherry blossom during its short season in spring. Do you have any on your wish list that does not feature here? Have you visited any of the above or one that is not even mentioned? Please do share your story in the comments below.