The Omuro Cherries at Ninna-Ji Temple, Kyoto

The Hanami (花見) or Cherry Blossom season is upon  us!  This is probably everyone favorite time in Japan and specially in Kyoto.

Hanami party in a park, Kyoto

 

Hanami (lit. “flower viewing”) is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers.  “Flower” in this case almost always means cherry blossoms (“sakura”). But actually, the blooming of flowers and therefore the “Season” starts with the Ume (梅 or plum), followed by the Momo (桃 or peach), and then come all the varieties of Sakura (桜 or cherry).

 

Cherry blossom, Kyoto
Maiko in front of cherry flowers, Kyoto
Cherry blossom, Kyoto

 

From the middle of March to early May, the sakura bloom all over Japan. This is an important national thing, with a dedicated blossom forecast (桜前線 sakura-zensen, literally “cherry blossom front”) being announced each year by the weather bureau, and watched carefully by a large part of the population for the planning of “Hanami” as the blossoms only last a week or two in any given spot.

 

The cherry blossoms always attract photographers
Hanami party with friends and family
Hanami party at one of my favorite spot -- Hirano Jinja

 

In modern-day Japan, Hanami mostly consists of visiting some park or garden (often associated with temple or shrine), and having an outdoor party beneath the sakura during daytime or at night with friends and family members. But more than that, it is also the perfect time to visit all the wonderful monuments and gardens of Kyoto. As life of the nature around us restarts everywhere and people are happy to see the end of the winter cold, the general mood is festive and happy. If anyone asked me when is the best time to visit Kyoto, “Hanami Season” would be my answer (not the only one, though as I also really like the Autumn Kôyô season).
At the Haradani-En garden in Kyoto

 

Hanami in the garden of the Heian Jingu Shrine,  Kyoto
Hanami by night next to Miyagawa-Cho, Kyoto
Hanami light-up at the Kiyomizu-Dera Temple, Kyoto

 

The tradition of Hanami is quite old and today the Japanese people continue to follow it, gathering in great numbers wherever the flowering trees are found. Thousands of people fill the parks to hold feasts under the flowers, and sometimes these parties go on until late at night.

This really is a great time to be around Kyoto as together with the sun, young girls come out everywhere dressed in kimono.

Young Japanese girls in Kimono enjoying the flowers

 

Hanami Party by night, Maruyama Koen Park, Kyoto

Hanami at night is called Yozakura (夜桜, literally “Night Sakura”) and in Kyoto a great spot to enjoy one is around the Maruyama Koen behind the Yasaka Shrine (at the end of Shijo street).

 

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