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Ԍ Hanami

"Hanami" (Ԍ flower viewing in Japanese) is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers; which is often refered to "Sakura" flower (桁Echerry blossoms in Japanese) and is also the national flower of Japan.

postcard of Hanami

There are dozens of cherry blossom festivals held during the time from late March to early May when the sakura bloom all over Japan. There are hundreds of different cherry tree varieties in Japan. However, the cherry blossom season is relatively short and most varieties of cherry tree only blossom for a few weeks at most in spring. From late March to early April, sakura go into full bloom all over Japan. It is one of the most popular events of Spring. (picture right: a postcard of Hanami)

Below are some of the popular places nationalwide for Hanami and the forecast for the best time to go visit.

Apart from taking a stroll down the parks or streets lined with cherry blossoms or visiting a temple or shrine, you can also take a river cruise along the Sumida River, like in Tokyo. The wide river is busy with yakatabune(old style boats) and the Water Buses(ferries), and especially in spring, the boat rides are extremely popular with people enjoying Hanami. Enkai (or drinking parties in Japanese) take place on board the yakatabune too.

List of popular "Hanami" spots in Japan

Aomori prefecture
Hirosaki Castle
Best time to visit: late-April to early-May.
Hirosaki Koen is the no.1 Hanami spot in Tohoku. Over 2600 cherry trees, more than 80 different species are planted in the park surrounding Hirosaki Castle. Comes night time, the entire place is illuminated attracting even more visitors. Admission to the park is free.
Akita prefecture
Best time to visit: late-April to early-May.
The city of Kakunodate is famous for its weeping cherry trees, lining along sidewalks of the city's well preserved, former samurai district. There are about 400 Somei-Yoshino cherry trees spreading over the 2km stretch along the river. The age of some of the huge cherry trees exceed over 200 years old.
Iwate prefecture
Kitakami Tenshochi
Best time to visit: mid-April to late-April.
Kitakami is one of the 3 famous Hanami spots in this region alongside Kakunodate in Akita and Hirosaki in Aomori. They are about 10,000 cherry trees lined across a 2 kilometer area.
Iwate prefecture
Koiwai Farm
Best time to visit: mid-April to late-April.
Koiwai Farm, at the foot of Mt. Iwate, is the nation's largest privately managed farm. This cherry blossom viewing spot in Koiwai Farm was made famous after being used for the NHK drama shooting location. To look out for a century old cherry tree of the Edo-higano species.
Kyoto prefecture
Maruyama Park
Best time to visit: early-April to mid-April
Maruyama Park is Kyoto's most popular public park for cherry blossom viewing. Its centerpiece is a large weeping cherry tree, 11 meters in height and is about 70 years old. This tree is transplanted from Yasaka Shrine during the Edo period. The area is illuminated during night time for viewing.
Kyoto prefecture
Heian Jingu Shrine
Best time to visit: early-April to mid-April
There are about 300 cherry trees in this area and about 150 cherry trees stand in the garden of Heian Jingu Shrine. Admission to the garden costs 600 Yen.
Kyoto prefecture
Kiyomizudera Temple
Best time to visit: early-April to mid-April
There are about 300 weeping cherry trees(shidarezakura) in the vicinity. Cherry blossoms are illuminated at night between late-March and mid-April. You will find different beauty of sakura at night. Admission to the garden costs 400 Yen.
Nara prefecture
Best time to visit: early-April to mid-April
Yoshinoyama (Mount Yoshino) has been Japan's most famous viewing spot for many centuries for its picturesque cherry blossoms . The mountain is covered by approximately 30,000 cherry trees. There are about 1000 "Shiroyamazacra"(white cherry blossoms) and you could tell them apart from the rest comes full bloom.
Nara prefecture
Hase-dera Temple
Best time to visit: early-April to mid-April
Often called "Temple of the flower" is Hasedera temple. There are about 6600 cherry trees in this area and with the main temple commanding the best view.
Wakayama prefecture
Kimiidera Temple
Best time to visit: end-March to mid-April
The cherry blossoms are known to be the first to blossom in the Kansai Region, and 1,500 Someiyoshino, 500 Higanzakura, Tokaizakura and weeping cherry trees blossom on the mountain slope. You can find monuments with poems on cherry blossoms here and there in the mountain.
Wakayama prefecture
Negoroji Temple
Best time to visit: end-March to mid-April
The Negoro-ji complex stands on the side of, and is surrounded by the sacred peaks of the Katsuragi Mountains at the Northern end of Iwade City in the Wakayama Prefecture. There are about 7000 cherry trees surrounding the area.
Hiroshima prefecture
Miyajima Island
Best time to visit: mid-March to mid-April
It is said that Miyajima is worth a visit a thousand visits, but there are two times in the year that it is at its best and most crowded, that is during the cherry blossom season and during autumn when all the leaves change into vibrant fall colors. There are about 1600 cherry trees on this small island.
Aichi prefecture
Matsuyama Castle
Best time to visit: mid-March to mid-April
Matsuyama Castle being on of the places of interest needs no furthur introduction to any tourist however the surrounding area is known among the local people as a favourite spot for Hanami and especially during night time when it is illuminated. There are about 320 of the Somei-Yoshino cherry trees.

Popular "Hanami" spots in Tokyo

Ueno Koen
Ueno Koen Hanami spot Just 5 minutes walk away from Ueno Station(JR, Hibiya, Ginza lines) is Ueno Koen(Ueno park). It is one of the most crowded cherry blossom spots in Japan. Ueno Koen features more than 1200 trees along the walkway that leads to the National Museum and Ueno Zoo. Large crowd is expected during both day and night time.
Shinjuku Gyoen
Shinjuku Gyoen Hanami spot 5 minute walk from Shinjuku Station is Shinjuku Gyoen. Shinjuku Gyoen features more than 1000 cherry trees of over a dozen species in Western and Japanese style gardens. There is an entrance fee of 200 Yen, and the park is only open between 9:00 and 16:30.
Chidori-ga-fuchi Minakami Park
Chidori-ga-fuchi Minakami Park 5-minute walk from Kudanshita station (Hanzo-mon, To-zai, Toei Shinjuku lines). Chidori-gafuchi is one of the moats of a former Edo castle and a popular cherry blossom viewing spots for group tourists who are visiting Tokyo. Enjoy a boat ride along the moat, surrounded by cherry trees that are lit up in the evening. Yasukuni Shrine is nearby and you can enjoy cherry blossoms there as well. If you walk a little further, you will be able to get to Higashi-Gyoen (the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace).
Sumida Park, on the banks of the Sumida River near Asakusa
Sumida Park, on the banks of the Sumida River near Asakusa 2-minute walk from Asakusa (Ginza, Asakusa line) station. Sumida Park has about a 1-kilometer row of trees along the Sumida river on the side of Taito-ku. There is also a park across the river in Sumida-ku where there is a Sakura Matsuri in April and a monthly antique market. There is no entrance fee. Food stands are available. Hanami can also be enjoyed from boats that cruise the river.
Aoyama Cemetery
Aoyama Cemetery 10 minute walk from Gaien-mae (Ginza line), Nogizaka (Chiyoda line) stations. The straight road leading through the cemetery is lined and covered by hundreds of cherry trees. There is no admission fee. A few food stands are available.

List of Sakura festivals in Japan

1. Yaedake Cherry Blossom Festival Motobu Town, Okinawa
    - The earliest cherry blossom festival in Japan.

2. Kumamoto Castle Cherry Blossom Festival Kumamoto-city, Kumamoto
    - More than 800 cherry trees.

3. Matsuyama Shiroyama Koen Cherry Blossom Festival Matsuyama-city, Ehime
    - More than 300 sakura trees.

4. Matsue Jozan Koen Cherry Blossom Festival Matue-city, Shimane
    - More than 350 sakura trees.

5. Tsuyama Kakuzan Koen Cherry Blossom Festival Tsuyama-city, Okayama
    - More than 5,000 sakura trees.

6. Takato Joshi Koen Cherry Blossom Festival Takato-machi Ina-city, Nagano
    - More than 1,500 sakura trees.

7. Takada Koen Cherry Blossom Festival Joetsu-city, Niigata
    - One of the most beautiful illuminated cherry blossoms in Japan.

8. Omiya Koen Cherry Blossom Festival Saitama-city, Saitama
    - More than 1,200 sakura trees.

9. Ueno Park Cherry Blossom Festival Taito-ku, Tokyo
    - More than 1,200 sakura trees.

10. Kitakami Tenshochi Cherry Blossom Festival Kitakami-city, Iwate
    - More than 10,000 sakura trees.

11. Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival Hirosaki-city, Aomori
    - More than 2,600 sakura trees.

12. Matsumae Park Cherry Blossom Festival Matsumae Town, Hokkaido
    - More than 10,000 sakura trees.

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Cherry blossom blooming forecast

The above data shows the average cherry blossom blooming date with the line starting from Kyushu and moving eastward towards Hokkaido. And in year 2007 last year, the first day of blooming (kaika) was observed on March20 in Tokyo, and March25 in Kyoto. The full bloom (mankai) will usually be one week counting from the day of the first bloom.

The Japan National Tourist Organization, JNTO did a very good job by collecting pictures of Sakura trees at various observation points almost every few days and storing them as datas on their website.
http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/indepth/seasonal/sakura2007/index.php http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/indepth/seasonal/sakura2007/fixed_archives.php

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