The blossoming of cherry trees is met with much fanfare throughout the world. From the picturesque Potomac River in Washington to the mythic Mount Yishino in Japan, there are a plethora of magical and enchanted places to witness the beauty of cherry blossoms unfold. Many cultures hold extravagant celebrations and festivals welcoming the magical, wistful energy that cherry blossoms bring, and cherry blossoms are beloved around the world as they usher in the promise of the bounty of Spring.
Must-See Cherry Blossom Locations
Looking to experience the magic of the Cherry Blossom Season in person? There are a couple of places around the world known for their notable cherry blossom display and festivals. In Kyoto, Japan 1000 cherry trees line the beautiful Tetsugaku-no-michi, which translates to Path of Philosophy.
The majestic Mount Yishino in Japan is blanketed in cherry trees. Interestingly enough, they blossom at different times and days in accordance with their altitude. Visitors willing to trek to the countryside and see Mount Yishino’s beautiful cherry blossom array can also find quaint tea-houses and shops, and well as some relaxing temples.
The Meguro river comes alive in the spring with cherry blossoms. It flows through Naka-Meguro in Japan and almost forms a tunnel of enchanted, blossoming beauty and splendor. A weeping cherry tree called Gion no Yozakura, which means “night time cherry of Gion,” can be found at Maruyama-koen Park in Japan. This beautiful tree is illuminated at night for an unforgettable display.
In the United States there are a plethora of notable cherry blossom festivals and displays. Washington, San Franscico, Seattle and Portland have significant Japanese-American communities, and as such keep tradition with wonderful cherry blossom festivals, although San Franscisco’s display is mostly artificial. You can also find cherry blossom celebrations in Honolulu, Los Angeles, and even Sydney, Australia.
Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington
Washington's famous cherry blossom festival would not have been possible without a very generous gift. gIn 1885, an American photographer by the name of Ruhamah Scidmore pushed for the introduction of cherry trees into American culture. Her efforts led to Tokyo donating 3,000 cherry trees to Washington to adorn the historic Potomac River. In 1912, Scidmore’s dream became a reality, and President Taft’s wife, Helen, along with Viscountess Chinda planted the very first two cherry trees in America, both of which still stand in Washington today.
In Washington they hold festivals every cherry blossom season in remembrance of this generous gift from Japan. In fact, 2012 marked the 100th anniversary of this tradition. The cherry blossom festival in Washington is replete with cultural performances, kite flying, fireworks and even a parade, although none of these activities are inherent to traditional cherry blossom festivals in Japan…but it’s not the American way unless we put our own spin on it.
Hanami and the "Cherry Blossom Front"
Cherry Blossom in Japanese Culture
There is much fanfare during cherry blossom season in Japan. The weather forecasts cover the “cherry blossom front,” or sakura zensen for 40-days straight during the month of April, broadcasting the best places to see the blossoms and what time their expected to bloom. The Japanese school year starts during the blossoming of cherry festivals as it is believed that this will send students off to school with a good, fresh start and renewed energy. Cherry blossoms are the “unofficial” National Flower of Japan. It’s served at ceremonies and weddings, and is even made into a tea-like festive drink called sakura-yu, which is made with salt-preserved cherry blossoms and hot water.
The Japanese celebrate the blossoming of cherry trees in a festival called Hanami. Hanami translates to “flower-viewing,” and during the blossoming of cherry trees and sakura which are non-fruit bearing cherry trees, celebrations and parties are held to celebrate the ephemeral nature of cherry blossoms and how they symbolize the transient nature of life.
Hanami celebrations are held both day and night. "Night sakuras” or yozakuras are held in the evening and characterized by the hanging of paper lanterns. People make offerings to the kami inside cherry trees at this time. A dance festival called Yasurai Hana, or “Quieting Blossoms,” is held wear men and women wear decorative costumes and adorn themselves with pink flowers, dancing and singing the phrase “yasurai hana ya” over and over again to hope for an extended cherry blossom season. They also dance, sing, and celebrate in hopes and prayer for a bountiful rice harvest.
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