The cherry blossom (sakura) festival recently ended, but while the trees were still in bloom I took the time to visit Ueno, one of the most popular sakura viewing parks in Tokyo. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into before I got there; a quick web search told me it was the busiest and loudest place to view sakura, and it was also free to enter the park. Though Ueno is easily over an hour train ride from where I live, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to finally see what everyone had been so enthusiastically anticipating for the previous few weeks.
As soon as I got off the train at Ueno Station I was given a taste of just how loud and busy Ueno was during this time of year: I could hardly move through the station near the park exit. When I managed to get out of the station, I followed the crowd to the center of the park where I was not only surrounded by hundreds of people, but hundreds of sakura. The street was filled with people enjoying the warm weather and walking underneath the trees. People snapped pictures everywhere at literally every chance they got. It was definitely very loud, and very busy.
The amount of people in the park was unexpected and impressive. Not only were the streets crowded, but the ground around the trees was also covered with people sitting on tarps and blankets in groups, eating lunch and drinking alcohol. I ended up happening to run into some friends and we also picnicked under the trees. The park was very prepared for the event and the amount of people who were visiting. Some ground where people sat was marked off from the streets to avoid people sitting in traffic, and every intersection had numerous bins for trash and recycling. There were also a lot of food and drink vendors.
Before visiting Ueno I understood that the cherry blossom festival was very important in Japan, but I underestimated the extent to which people make an attempt to appreciate the time that the trees are in bloom. A lot of people attempted to take pictures of their children in front of the trees, though it often proved to be difficult. The most interesting attempt at a picture I witnessed was a man holding his dog up in front of the trees to try to capture a picture of her with his cell phone.
For the rest of the time the sakura were in bloom I was lucky enough to see them daily on my walk to the train station. The neighborhood I live in is pretty quiet compared to the denser areas of Tokyo, and my walk to the station is lined with sakura.