FROM HUMAN CHESS TO PADDLEBOARDING:
UNIQUE WAYS CHERRY BLOSSOMS ARE CELEBRATED THROUGHOUT JAPAN
With the much-anticipated arrival of their delicate pink flowers, the cherry trees blossoming in Japan is a yearly spectacle. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, cherry blossoms in Tokyo are expected to bloom on March 15th this year. Associated with renewal and the coming spring, the cherry blossoms (or sakura) spur a variety of unique celebrations and experiences throughout the country, with many cities and towns forming their own yearly traditions and unique ways to see the cherry blossoms.
Cruise the Matsukawa River, Toyama Prefecture
Travelers can enjoy hanami (the custom of flower viewing in Japan) as well as the beautiful landscapes of Toyama Prefecture on a special cruise along the Matsukawa River. During cherry blossom season, cruises on the river drift along with the relaxing current and make their way through tunnels of cherry blossom trees. Cruises begin and end outside of the Matsukawa Tea House, so travelers can enjoy a nice cup of tea after a peaceful afternoon of hanami.
Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride Through Kitakami Tenshochi Park, Iwate Prefecture
A massive park spanning over 700 acres, the Kitakami Tenshochi Park has been a favorite for hanami among both locals and travelers for decades. 2021 is the 100th anniversary of the park’s opening and there is a myriad of ways for travelers to see the cherry blossoms, such as taking a riverboat cruise, or taking a ride on a horse-drawn carriage underneath the “tunnel of pink.” Cherry blossom branches stretch out from the trees on both sides of the walkway and form a floral tunnel that travelers can traverse
Human Chess Match at Tendo Sakura Matsuri, Yamagata Prefecture
Ninety percent of Japanese chess pieces, or shogi, are produced in the city of Tendo. Every April, as over 2,000 cherry blossoms bloom, locals and travelers gather to watch a human chess match, or shogi battle, in Maizuru Park, where two professional chess players compete with humans dressed as samurai and servants in place of chess pieces. The festival also features taiko (Japanese drum) performances and delicious festival food like yakisoba noodles and takoyaki balls.
Stand-up Paddleboarding in Shiga Prefecture
In Kyoto, travelers who want to partake in hanami can go stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Biwa to see cherry blossoms bloom along the coast. Shirahage SUP at the Shirahige Beach Campsite offers travelers the opportunity to see the cherry blossoms directly from the crystal blue waters of Lake Biwa.
Moka Railway Ride in Tochigi Prefecture
The city of Moka in Tochigi Prefecture is perhaps most known for the Moka Railway, which has been operating for over 100 years. During the spring when cherry blossoms begin to bloom, the railway line becomes a popular attraction since its track is almost completely surrounded by cherry blossoms and rape flowers. Travelers can book a trip on the scenic railway between Mogi station and Shimodate station for an unforgettable hanami ride.
Boating Under Hirosaki Castle, Aomori Prefecture
Hirosaki Castle is well-known as a top destination for hanami. Since local apple farmers prune the cherry trees the same way they do apples, the trees end up with two to three times more flowers than normal. To see the lush, pink flowers, guests often rent a rowboat and sail it out on the river surrounded by cherry blossoms. The sparkling river coupled with the towering castle and the bright petals makes for a fairy tale to come to life.
Noh Plays at Night, Tokyo
Under the lovely cherry blossoms of Yasukuni Shrine, a stage is set and traditional plays called noh are performed. These plays often date back to the 14th century and include kyogen (comedic spoken dramas) and maibayashi (a shorter version of noh with music). Performed, under the yozakura (cherry blossoms at night), the plays are enhanced by the atmosphere of the lit-up blossoms and the bonfire, two integral elements of this experience. Japan’s top actors and actresses are known to take the stage.
Events and experiences above are subject to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For updates on travel restrictions to Japan, please visit the website.