Cherry blossom, or sakura, season in Japan is greatly celebrated, and unrivaled anywhere in the world. The importance of the cherry blossom, in Japanese culture goes back hundreds of years, and signifies the beauty and impermanence of life. It is also a time to celebrate new beginnings and hope for a bright future. Japanese school's even begin their new school year in April, in keeping with that theme.
We were out of the country for most of sakura season last year, the window is very short- only about ten days, so we wanted to soak it all in this year. Our first stop was the famed Ueno Park, one of the more famous viewing spots in Tokyo. I loved the wreaths they had hanging.
Just follow the crowd to the trees. And this was relatively uncrowded compared to how it was when we left.
Walking along the blossom covered path was absolutely magical!
I loved the lanterns. I guess they are lit up at night, lending a rosy pink hue to everything. We will have to do that next year.
We wandered up a long staircase to a shrine, the view from the top was fabulous.
You can buy little wooden plaques at shrines to write a prayer on, then hang them at the temple. We bought one to use as Christmas tree ornament.
The girls wanted to sign the back. It will be a great memento to get out every year at Christmastime.
Next, we headed to the small lake, and MORE cherry trees.
The paddle boats were out in full force, too!
What could be more magical than riding in a yellow swan? Or, is it a duck?
There was simply so much beauty at every turn.
The Japanese also celebrate hanami, during sakura season, which is basically a picnic/party under the blossoms. Hanami can get quite rowdy with all of the beer and sake drinking, I guess we will have to go in the evening next year for more entertainment!
These prime spots were all saved for groups to arrive later. Not sure on what that process entails, but in Japan, you could save a spot all day long (including a table in a mall food court or even Costco) with a towel, and it would be respected and untouched. Crime is so low, I've even seen people save tables with their purse, or shopping bags. Unbelievable.
There are over 1,000 cherry trees in Ueno Park, I think we saw just about all of them!
I am so glad we got an early start, this was the sight at Ueno Station, when we returned. Absolutely wall to wall people (the lady in front doesn't look too happy to be in the picture).
Tama River Trail
About 20 minutes from our house is the Tama River, which also has a great walking/biking path along the river bank. They hold a cherry blossom festival that is pretty well known, so we headed there on a Saturday afternoon. There had been quite a few rainy days, and that can really shorten the life of sakura season.
Love the lanterns!
Every Japanese festival has street food. We saw lots of people with these "sticks" and decided to check them out. They were fried, raw spaghetti noodles with either powdered sugar or salt. Interesting.
We just walked around and enjoyed the scenery.
We saw lots more hanami, too. It looked so fun! This one was very fancy, with red cushions, tables and small grills. The food smelled great!
The girls enjoyed throwing rocks in the river for a while.
And the highlight of the day for Eva? Losing her first tooth! She pulled it out herself.
The last stop on our 2015 sakura tour, was to Shinjuku Gyoen. This is a very popular park in the heart of Shinjuku, and with over 300 cherry tree varieties in Japan, they have planted a good mix of late and early blooming trees, so the season lasts a bit longer.
The blossoms were so fragrant.
I can't even describe the beauty of this, the pictures don't do it justice!
Of course, Ella found a great tree to climb.
It's always a good time for a sakura selfie!
We found gorgeous blossoms of all colors at this park.
The blossoms gently fall from the trees like pink snow. The girls had fun trying to catch them as they fell.
I still can't get over all of the serene Japanese parks in the heart of Tokyo. You would never know you were standing right in the middle of the world's largest city.
Japanese trees are manicured to perfection. Every year they are trimmed back at the end of the season, and they come back fuller than ever in the summer. I see this all over the place, not just in parks.
I loved this happy family, enjoying hanami and eachother.
We ended the day with sakura ice cream. Yummy! At this time of year, cherry blossoms are used in all sorts of different foods around Japan.
I guess what surprised me the most, was that the cherry trees are everywhere in Japan, not just in special parks. They are literally everywhere...behind the train station, behind factories, lining parking lots, etc. The whole city is a blaze in pink. The base we live on is especially beautiful, too. This is the street behind my house.
With such a picturesque backdrop, you'll see lots of families out snapping family photos in the street!
This was a neat aerial view of the base, posted on the Yokota Facebook page.
And then, the pink snow begins, which is almost as magical as the full bloom.
And just like that, another sakura season comes to an end. Here's to new beginnings!