The coming of the cherry blossom season is closely tracked across the country, and in Tokyo the center of attention is the famous Yasukuni Shrine where the official cherry tree of the Tokyo metropolitan area grows. Every day the meteorological agency inspects the tree to check for signs of blossoming and when the time has come the Tokyo Cherry Blossom Seasoning is officially declared open. This is the signal for literally millions of people to descend on the gardens, parks and even roadside plots – anywhere beneath a cherry tree – to enjoy the traditional Japanese activity of “hanami”, flower viewing while drinking and making merry with friends and colleagues. There were plenty of people taking pictures of the few brave early flowers. Still few, but enough for officials to declare the season open, the earliest ever! Still, as I look around the city there are almost nothing on the cherry trees yet, so it will be awhile before the main flowering kicks in.
You can see the “monitor tree” itself in the second to last photo, with the main trunk of the tree at the far right of the photo and the single extended branch all the way to the far left of the photo, and in a close up, the 5-6 flowers necessary for the season to be declared open. Enjoy!
According to some sources, April 6th was the peak of the cherry blossom season here in central Tokyo and there were a lot of people out having a look at the flowers even at night, after work. Rikugien (六義園), a very beautiful traditional garden in Tokyo’s Bunkyo ward, had a special even which drew a few thousand people, including me, to watch the lit up cherry blossom after dark. It was very dark last night again, very few clouds and even though the day was warm and lovely the evening turned bitterly cold, almost like the winter returned. Rikugien is a wonderful example of an Edo period park, founded over 300 years ago it only opened to the public in 1938. It was my first visit there but I really have to go see it again during the daytime. Not only was the sakura in full bloom but also the bamboo. It was very difficult to get any decent photographs due to the extreme contrast between the white flowers and the black skies, so please excuse the poor quality of these photos! Totally unrelated, but blog worthy, was the cute little house I passed on the way to the park! It looks totally out of place on a back street in central Tokyo!
It seems the weather goods have abandoned us, just when we think spring is coming we get a couple of days of rain and temperatures that barely stay above zero, buy at least yesterday was not one of those days! A clear blue sky and warm and cozy weather lured me to the city of Kamakura south of Tokyo, where I took a few photos of the first real flowers I have seen this year, including some early blooming cherry blossoms! In a week or two we will be at peak cherry blossom viewing here in Tokyo, and with that the drinking parties, the get togethers and the inevitable colds from staying out far too long in the cold! Still, the flowers are more than beautiful. I hope you’ll enjoy!