Viewing Sakura (cherry blossoms)

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Around this time of year in Japan, cherry blossom trees, known as Sakura, are in full-bloom. Sakura can be found here and there throughout Tokyo, from neighborhood streets to local parks. The largest collections of sakura appear to be in larger, iconic green spaces, like Ueno Park and Yoyogi Park. Sakura inspire a number of recreational activities and responses, from photography to hanami.

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A beautiful afternoon scene in Yoyogi Park

I was surprised to see how many non-tourists I found photographing sakura. Even lone trees in a largely populated area, such as outside of a train station, receive plenty of attention. My first view of sakura was toward the end of March in Yoyogi park. Unfortunately, even approaching the few blossoming trees proved difficult, as dozens of viewers with cameras surrounded them. By this time, the first week in April, blooming sakura appear all over Japan, and have become a common sight.

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A small park in Tsunashima, a town behind Hiyoshi, was decorated with lanterns

Hanami is the traditional activity of picnicking under sakura, and typically involves varying degrees of alcohol consumption. On any given weeknight, groups of businessmen can be found happily drinking in parks together. During noontime I have often seen groups of older women chatting together over lunch under sakura. On sunny weekends especially, I see groups of families spread out on blankets all throughout the park, accompanied by the sounds of children laughing and playing. This is a very happy, celebrated occasion that nearly everybody seems to enjoy and take part in. For some, the excuse to drink and party seems to take priority over the actual sakura.

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A typical scene of Hanami

Living outside of Tokyo, I have had the wonderful opportunity to explore many scenic, suburban  neighborhoods where parks and wooded areas are aplenty. My favorite park for sakura viewing is Tamagawadai Park, located right next to Tamagawa Station, just a few stops away from Hiyoshi. Its winding paths, wooden log fences and stone steps leading up sloped hills provide the area with a very natural, peaceful atmosphere. Despite the park’s length, on weekends in April it becomes so crowding that even walking in certain areas becomes difficult.

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I attended a local Hanami festival in Motosumiyoshi, another town near Hiyoshi. Families sat together near the canal, and nearby food stands offered a variety of traditional Japanese foods.

On the particular Saturday that I wrote this entry, I had assumed that a forecast for likely rain would have deterred sakura enthusiasts. Instead, Tamagawadai Park was as filled as ever, with participants barely reacting to a few bouts of rain that afternoon.

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A bridge over a local street running through Tamagawadai Park

With so many pleasant areas to visit and relax in, I choose to read, complete homework assignments, and write blog entries outdoors in places like Tamagawadai Park, as opposed to sitting cooped up in the dorm on beautiful evenings. Viewing sakura and experiencing Spring in Japanese parks has been one of the highlights of my time abroad. 

 

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