When deciding which semester I wanted to study abroad, aside from the biggest influencing decision being graduating on time, I thought about what sort of experience I wanted to have. Japan is a country with defined seasons, which means each season there are different traditions, festivals, foods, and activities to be enjoyed. For me, spring was the most appealing and obvious option because of Japan’s beloved national flower, sakura, or cherry blossoms. Though the blossoms only last for a week, it is one of the most beautiful and well-loved seasons in Japan, and if you have the chance to visit Japan during this time of year, I want to help you make the most of it!
What should one expect from this occasion anyway? When the sakura begins to bloom, people of all ages flock to parks for hanami, a word which literally means “flower viewing,” and is basically a picnic party. During this time, many of the Japanese college students from Nanzan and other surrounding universities were still on break, so they would spend hours at the park sitting under the cherry blossom trees on giant blue tarps, eating, drinking, and spending time with friends or family. Some people keep it simple, while others have a true party. While at Tsuruma Park, I saw a large group of elderly Japanese women and men who had formed a giant table from cardboard boxes to eat their homemade hanami bento on. From my experience, the entire point of hanami is to slow down and relax, enjoying the quickly fading beauty of the cherry blossoms and nature around you, which also seems to serve as a metaphor and reminder to slow down and celebrate the people around you and your life. The major theme of it all is impermanence, a theme deeply integrated into Buddhist belief (Japanese are both Shinto and Buddhist), but even if you aren’t Buddhist, it’s a beautiful and important reminder. Think of it as Japan’s carpe diem written in nature if you will.
Some great places to enjoy sakura in Nagoya are:
This park has plenty of room for everyone, with two huge sections for sitting directly under the cherry blossom trees. It is quite lively with people camped out everywhere and live music played from the stage. If you forget to bring some snacks, don’t fret because there are all sorts of food booths around. However, there is the option to stroll a bit past this area and to find a nice bench to quietly gaze at the cherry blossoms from.
Hundreds of sakura trees line the banks of this river and you can stroll along the canal drinking in all the beauty. This location is popular at all times of the day, but some of my friends especially loved visiting at night when the lanterns create a beautiful glow on the pink blossoms and still water. This is a great place to visit if you’re seeking a quieter, less crowded location to stroll along.
You can explore the castle, which is unlike any other I have seen in Japan, and enjoy the cherry blossoms. There are even a few weeping cherry blossom trees here. Admission is 500 yen.
Togokusan Fruits Park
This place is known for having all sorts of flowering fruit trees, including apricot, plum, cherry, and weeping cherry blossom trees. There is also a Strawberry Fair here in late March.
Close to Nagoya Castle and also nearby the Tokugawa Art Museum.
But wait, what’s sakura season without proper snacks? Many companies come out with special seasonal items for this time of year like Starbucks’ Sakura Mochi Frappuccinos and Lattes. Some of my favorite seasonal sweets that I recommend include: Kansai-style sakura mochi, hanami dango, and special edition strawberry melon bread!
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<p class="MsoBodyText" style="margin-top:2.35pt; margin-right:9.65pt; margin-bottom:.0001pt; margin-left:5.0pt"><span style="line-height:115%">I grew up in a small farm town but was bitten by the travel-bug shortly after leaving for undergrad. I have a sweet tooth the size of Texas, and can often be found searching for the best treats life has to offer.</span></p>