The first Hanami, Japan and Sakura

Tripoto
13th Oct 2016
Photo of The first Hanami, Japan and Sakura 1/1 by Swetha Srinath
Sakuranomiya station bridge, Osaka.

Japan during Sakura, a day dream.

What started as a wonder and awe from the photographs on the internet and the interpretation in Japanese anime, led to inspiration for paintings, and some for writing and not to forget, also a became part of my tattoo. This obsession ended up as a constant day dream to visit Japan during cherry blossoms ( Sakura).

Travel day dreams are synonymous to travel plans. But journeying through this rabbit hole, little did I know that it would lead directly to a fantasy wonderland setting! I realised that the photographs I had seen and me with the camera, could hardly try to capture it's brilliance and light play. But only make an attempt at it. As I showcase my attempt, let me try and put forth my understanding of this yearly magic.

Photo of The first Hanami, Japan and Sakura by Swetha Srinath

Booking a travel to Japan during the sakura season even after all the research and actually being able to witness it from the first morning in Japan is almost a miracle. As like any natural event one can only try and predict the yearly blooming of a flower. Rest is left to how warm it is getting - how quickly or slowly, how one windy day or a rainy day can erase all the blooming flowers and deprive you of the visual spectacle for that year. I should express my gratitude for things coming together, as I saw them bloom from the first morning through the next 17 days in different cities of Japan this March-April 2016.

Kiyomizu dera temple, Kyoto

Photo of Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan by Swetha Srinath

By the philosopher’s path, Kyoto

Photo of The first Hanami, Japan and Sakura by Swetha Srinath

You slowly begin to understand how and why the Japanese have referred, enjoyed and looked forward to spring and for the sakura to bloom from as long ago as 700.A.D. Sakura is timeless. They add a bit of magic to any time and age.

Photo of Osaka Castle, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan by Swetha Srinath

Hanami literally means viewing of Sakura. It is centuries old practice of having a picnic under the blooming trees. This custom is said to have started around 700.A.D where the elites would sit under the sakura tree admiring the flowers and eating their spring treats. During the Edo period it was not just the elites but everyone started enjoying Hanami with the sakura trees planted around the town. Today you will find all the Japanese outside (I really do think every one of them are out) and enjoying the sakura as this marks the coming of the warm weather after a long winter, starting of new things, like a school year and beautiful picturesque landscapes in the sunshine. And if you are around in Japan during cherry blossoms, you should surely join the locals with your own Hanami Bento.

Hanami in Osaka, by sakuranomiya station

Photo of Sakuranomiya Station, Miyakojima Ward, Osaka Prefecture, Japan by Swetha Srinath

Be it 700.A.D, it fits right in by a palace amidst the elite and the royals. You can picture it in the Edo period in the traditional towns adding a cotton candy pink to it's look. You can picture it in the country side by a river, covering the complete hillside with different shades of white and pink, by the shrines, in the new age boulevards, by the train stations, on either side of canals and bridges, even next to high rise buildings. Then why not go a little into the future, it would even fit right into a dystopian Neo Tokyo. Sakura is timeless!

Ueno Park, Taito, Tokyo, Japan

Photo of Ueno Park, Taito, Tokyo, Japan by Swetha Srinath
Photo of Arashiyama, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan by Swetha Srinath

Shikarakawa sosui Dori, Kyoto

Photo of The first Hanami, Japan and Sakura by Swetha Srinath

So plan your travel around end of march to beginning of April if you want to see Sakura in central and southern Japan and go sakura hunting. Plan a little later if you want to see it up north. You will find a lot of helping document of the sakura forecast every year along with the location and the probable week of blossom. No better place for all your information than the Japan-Guide.

It is worth all your effort, when you see the light refract through a canopy of pink cherry blossoms while walking to Ginkaku ji in Kyoto. When you look outside your 10th floor balcony and you wonder why does it look like snow when it's sunny outside and realise when you reach the balcony, it's only the floating sakura petals in the wind at your airbnb home in Osaka. When you think you have entered a magical land at night with all trees shining in special spring lights by meguro river in Tokyo. When you walk under the philosopher's path in Kyoto and there is slow soft rain of the petals in the gentle breeze. When you finally see a street turn pink at your feet at Yanaka Cemetery in Tokyo or a stream turn pink because of all the petals that have left the trees and have bid goodbye for the year.

Meguro river at night, Tokyo

Photo of Meguro River, Meguro, Tokyo, Japan by Swetha Srinath
Photo of Kii-Hosokawa Station, Koya, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan by Swetha Srinath

Senso-ji temple, Tokyo

Photo of Sensō-ji, Taito, Tokyo, Japan by Swetha Srinath

Osaka loop line and Sakura

Photo of Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan by Swetha Srinath

It somehow seems fitting, now that I have witnessed this spectacle to leave you with a few words I wrote on livejournal two years before ever sighting the blossoms. I can concur that it was beautiful and even more poetic than what I had imagined.

" They say the Sakura flowers fall at 5 centimeters per second. In their short span of life, every breath they take is beautiful. As a bud they are concentrated with all the colour that they are going to ever be. As a blossom they make every onlooker at some point take a deep breath and sigh.They inspire wonder in many, nostalgia in some, peace to others and onto making the present magical for the rest. And when they think that their time is done, none other have such a beautiful demise. The soft rain of the Sakura petals coming down while you are walking underneath could not be a better embrace by nature.The petal rain forming a beautiful carpet on land and a colourful raft in water. And while it falls at 5 centimeters per second it is sure to reflect on the joy that it gave as it lived and as its dying out. It has no regrets that it could only stay just that long. "

Photo of Philosopher's Path, Tetsugaku-no-michi, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan by Swetha Srinath

" Somethings in life come together like the existence of cherry blossoms. While they are alive they fill your life with those various uplifting emotions but they must leave and must go as beautifully as they had entered. The only thing you can do is say , Thank you for making me a part of that magical existence. "

Through Yanaka Cemetery

Photo of The first Hanami, Japan and Sakura by Swetha Srinath

Osaka

Photo of The first Hanami, Japan and Sakura by Swetha Srinath

"The cherries' only fault: the crowds that gather when they bloom" - Saigyo, 12th-century poet

Photo of The first Hanami, Japan and Sakura by Swetha Srinath

Sakura spots seen in the post and where to find them (From March/April 2016 experience):

Tokyo

  1. Shinjuku Gyoen National Park
  2. Meguro river sike walk
  3. Ueno Park
  4. Senso-ji temple
  5. Yanaka Cemetry walk

Osaka

  1. Sakuranomiya station and walk along the river side
  2. Walk from Sakuranomiya to Osaka castle
  3. Train from Osaka to Koyasan
  4. Osaka castle

Kyoto

  1. Kiyomizu dera shrine
  2. Shikarakawa sosui Dori (Street) on the way to Ginkaku ji (temple)
  3. Philosopher's path walk
  4. Streets of Gion
  5. Arashiyama shrines

These are just the locations of the pictures in the post. You can also spot cherry blossoms at many shrines and many river/canal side walks and the cities are planned to look stunning when the sakura bloom. The Japanese maps and handouts will also show you spots to find them. Have a great Hanami!

Photo of The first Hanami, Japan and Sakura by Swetha Srinath

This blog was originally published on 'Down the rabbit hole Travels'

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