On my first trip to Japan, I was very unfortunate to have missed the Spring season, when all the trees and flowers would bloom and share their beauty only for a brief time with the world. My first time going to Japan was in the Summer of 2010, and I stayed for the majority of the summer time. It was still fantastic, but I wish I could have seen what I was able to see in the Spring of 2016. Of all the famous sights to find in Japan, there is no equal to the annual cherry blossom viewings.
The Sakura, or cherry blossoms, are a wonderful sight that leaves even the Japanese people in awe at their natural beauty. Every Spring, around the early weeks of April, families gather to prepare themselves for a great celebration, eating picnics under trees that have blooming cherry flowers. There are even newscasters on TV, watching in great anticipation for the first blossoms of Tokyo to occur, which officially marks the start of the cherry blossom season. Stores sell Sake in great abundance around this time of year because it is believed by many to be an excellent combination to watch the flower petals falling and drinking this light, yet refreshing, alcohol with friends and family (of course, only those who are of legal age to drink).
Wherever you go in Japan, you will find cherry blossoms in full bloom once April comes around. I went with my wife and her parents to explore many different cities throughout Japan during this past Spring. All the ones pictured directly above came from just the Sagamihara City area, with some being around Kamimizo station’s Yokoyama park, some were from the Asamizo park, and the remainders were taken by my wife while I was driving with her down a road in Kamimizo.
The first time I saw cherry blossoms I was speechless. Other than my wife, these were the most beautiful sights I have ever laid my eyes upon. I remember the first day I went with my wife to see them starting to come into bloom. It was a very warm spring day, and we were walking through the Yokoyama park nearby the Kamimizo train station. My wife pointed to a tree that had little buds starting to grow and said they would make one of the rarest sights I could ever see. I didn’t believe it too much because we saw a few blossoms in America, nearby our college. I would later find outing was very mistaken.
Soon, we headed out on our trip to Fukuoka and started our journey down to Kumamoto city to see Kumamoto castle, one of Japan’s most precious treasures (Unfortunately, a majority of Kumamoto city was destroyed along with parts of the castle in the huge earthquake that hit about 1 week after we left). My wife’s father was driving at the time, so I got to take a peak out the window from time to time. The scenery felt so different with those blossoms that I had to check what month it was and make sure that wasn’t a spring snow. The castle itself was magnificent, standing on the wonderful stone wall that was built by hand hundreds of years ago.
I thought this couldn’t have been better and was pleased with the experience. On our way back from the trip, we arrived at Haneda airport and drove back to Sagamihara, cutting through Ueno city along the way. I think my wife and her parents planned this out very well because we arrived in the evening, with the sun just starting to set. Ueno is supposed to be a cherry blossom hot spot that many Japanese people go to see every year. These blossoms were the most breathtaking sight you could ever imagine.
Petals fell in even spread as the wind gently brushed them away from the trees. Walking under them as you see the sun setting feels like you are walking through a portal in time. With all the women wearing celebratory kimonos, it could very easily have been mistaken for the time of the samurai, the Edo Period. I had forgotten to take the pictures while the sun was still out, so I had to settle for night photos instead. The cherry blossoms of Ueno fell like a light snow that night, turning that into one of the best trips I’ve ever gone on during my visits to Japan.
I do have more things I would like to say about Kumamoto and Ueno, so I will have separate articles for those in the future. I plan on returning to Japan early enough to see these kinds of sights again this Spring, and can’t wait to refresh my soul with the ultimate satisfaction it brings when seen with family.