Cherry blossoms mark the annual advent of spring, and the Japanese have traditionally celebrated this with “hanami”. Hanami, literally meaning flower-viewing, are parties that are held under blossoming cherry tress. Throughout Japan, in parks, shrines, temples, and on river banks, crowds flock to picnic under the sea of pink blossoms. Many popular spots are illuminated in the evenings and special facilities are laid out for the visiting hoards.

The cherry blossom, or sakura, is Japan’s unofficial national flower and there are many dozens of different cherry tree varieties in Japan. However, the cherry blossom season is relatively short and most varieties of cherry tree only blossom for a few weeks at most in spring. Full bloom (mankai) is usually reached within about a week after the opening of the first blossoms (kaika). Within a week after full-bloom, blossoms start to fall from the trees and a rainfall can bring the sea of pink crashing to the ground, abruptly ending the hanami season.

One Spring Evening at Nagoya Castle by John Paul Presto

From late March to early April, sakura go into full bloom all over Japan. The blossom forecast (桜前線, “sakurazensen”) is announced each year by the Japanese Meteorological Agency As the full-bloom period is short, the announcements are waited on by the media and all eager party planners.

Depending on the weather in the weeks and months preceding the first blossoms, the first blossoms may appear upto 2 weeks early or a week later than normal. The cherry blossom front moves from South to North up the Japanese archipelago, Motobu Town in Okinawa seeing blossoms as early as mid-January, and Nemuro City, on the north-eastern tip of Hokkaido, as belatedly as late-May. In Nagoya the year on year average date for the first blossoms to appear is March 28; March 30 in Gifu, April 1 in Tsu, and April 16 in Takayama.

Below are some of the best places in the Nagoya Area from where you can embrace this ancient, sacred, Japanese tradition.

Yamazaki River 山崎川– Mizuho-ku, south-eastern Nagoya City.

Number of cherry trees: 580+ ■Illuminated: Yes Over 500 trees adorn a 2.5km length the Yamazaki River. One of the Top 100 viewing spots in Japan. ■Access: A 15-minute walk from Exit 2 of Mizuho Undojo-nishi Subway Station.

Higashiyama Botanical Gardens 東山植物園 Chikusa-ku, eastern Nagoya City.

Number of cherry trees: 3800+ ■Illuminated: No More than 40 kinds of blossoming cherry trees will be on view until the end of April in the park’s cherry garden. The annual Higashiyama Spring Festival is planned to run from Sunday, March 19 to Sunday, May 7. Fast food stalls and pay parking are available. Closed after 17:00. ■Access: 5 minutes walk from exit 3 of Higashiyama Koen Subway Station. There are also over 1600 parking spaces located around the park, 800 Yen per car.

Nagoya Castle & Meijo Koen 名古屋城 & 名城公園 – Nishi-ku, central Nagoya City.

Number of cherry trees: 1600+    ■Illuminated: until 20:00 The best known and most popular hanami spots in Nagoya. The castle and cherry blossoms combine for that perfect picture-postcard view. ■Access: 5 minute walk from exit 7 of Shiyakusho Subway Station.

Heiwa Park 平和公園 – Chikusa-ku, eastern Nagoya City.

Number of cherry trees: 2250+ ■Illuminated: No A quiet, picturesque park where you can relax under the blossoms away from the crowds. ■Access: A 10-minute walk from exit 3 of Higashiyama Koen Subway Station.

Tsuruma Park 鶴舞公園- Naka-ku, central Nagoya City

Number of cherry trees: 1200+     Illuminated: until 21:00 The park is lit up from 18:00 to 21:00 during hanami season. Its central location and Top 100 viewing spot ranking makes this a popular destination for corporate hanami parties during early spring evenings. Access: Located outside the main exit of JR Tsurumai Station (JR Chuo Line) and Tsurumai Subway Stations.

Shinsakai River 新境川 – Kagamihara City, Gifu Prefecture.

Number of cherry trees: 1000+    Illuminated: until 22:00 The carp-rich Shinsakai River is lined by cherry trees on both its banks, firmly putting it in the Japan’s Top 100 viewing spots. Free parking for upto 500 cars; 40 attraction booths, 4 toilets. The Kagamihara Cherry Festival is held annually on the first weekend in April. This festival attracts large crowds of upto 200,000 visitors to its parade, bazaar, and Miss Kagamihara contest. For more information, call the Kagamihara City Hall Tourist Office at 0583-83-9925. Access: 1 minute walk from Meitetsu Shiminkoen Station 市民公園前, located on the Meitetsu Kagamihara Line. A 10 minute walk from JR Naka Station那加, located on the JR Takayama Line.

Gojo River五条川 – Iwakura City, north of Nagoya.

Number of cherry trees: 1600 ■Illuminated: until 21:00

Ranked in Japan’s Top 100 viewing spots, both banks of the Gojo River are lined with over 1600 cherry trees. Traditional lanterns light up the area until 21:00. Iwakura is also famous for koinobori, or carp streamers, which are washed in the river as part of their traditional manufacturing process. There are also 300 parking spaces, 80 attraction booths, and 7 toilets available for visitors.

Access: A 5-minute walk from Iwakura Station, located on the Meitetsu Inuyama Line from Meitetsu Nagoya Station.

Nagoya City Togokusan Fruit Park東谷山フルーツパーク, Moriyama-ku, north-eastern Nagoya City.

Number of cherry trees: 1000    ■Illuminated: No Open daily 09:00 to 16:30; closed on Mondays unless national holiday and closed on Tuesdays if the Monday is a national holiday. During the first 2 weeks of April, the park runs a special hanami event. Entry is free. Paid parking available, free outside event time. ■Access: A 15-minute walk from Togobashi Station (東谷橋), located on the Yutori Guided Bus Line. Costs 620 Yen from Ozone Station.

Okazaki Koen岡崎公園 – Okazaki City, south of Nagoya.

Number of cherry trees: 1700 ■Illuminated: until 22:00

With historical Okazaki Castle as a backdrop, the cherry blossom viewing is firmly in Japan’s Top 100 spots and rated as the best in the Tokai Region. Okazaki’s annual Sakura Festival and Ieyasu samurai parade takes place during the first 2 weeks of April.

Access: A 10-minute walk from Meitetsu Higashi Okazaki Station 東岡崎駅, located on the Meitestu Main Line between Nagoya and Toyohashi.

(NIC Information)

henri daros

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