Every year in spring it snows in Japan – and it could be nice, warm and sunny but it will still snow. Why? Because of the cherry blossoms, which will fall to the ground as soon as there is a little wind.
We had timed our trip accordingly and took into account that it might be cooler (compared to Hong Kong) and we’d be wearing more layers of clothes. But it was important to us to see the cherry blossoms, which are also called Sakura, in Japan.
It is like an extra season, where restaurants and cafes start selling specially Sakura-flavoured dishes, women wear a yukata or a kimono decorated with small blossoms and there are lots of silly and cute souvenirs to take back home.
We decided to take pictures as our souvenir, and we walked through Kyoto looking for trees that were blossoming already – not just cherry but also plum and peach trees were nice to look at. The blossoms came in different colours from white to cream and rose to pink.
Some trees only had a few branches covered in blossoms, other trees had almost all branches full of big blossoms. As soon as a little wind came up, the blossoms started to fall like snow to the ground.
It was still early in the season (just early April) when we visited Kyoto. So it was still quite cold and windy – nonetheless, some hardcore fans had their picnics under a blooming sakura tree. This is called ‘Hanami’ and is a centuries-old practice, which was originally limited to the elite of the Imperial Court, but soon spread to samurai society and, by the Edo period, to the common people as well.
Every year the Japanese Meteorological Agency and the public track the cherry blossom front as it moves northward. For example, the Japan Guide website features regularly updates about the cherry blossoms, so you might want to plan your trip for next spring. Quite a few sightseeing spots have special night time openings so you can view the cherry blossoms in the dark, with lights set to highlight them.