One of the expected highlights of our trip to Tokyo this year was going to be the chance to see the Sakura, or Cherry Blossoms, in the country where they are most famous. We have our fair share of beautiful ones here in Vancouver; however, in our minds seeing them in Japan would be a more authentic experience. As our trip neared we realized just how important the Cherry Blossoms are to the Japanese when we discovered some of the many Sakura forecast and report websites [www.jnto.go.jp] out there. Unfortunately we also realized that the blossoms came out historically early in 2013 and that there was a good chance that we would miss them!
During the week leading up to our trip some of the message boards that we were following warned that a good storm might mean the end of the Sakura season and upon landing at Narita airport we were welcomed by heavy rain and high winds. Nonetheless, we decided to press on and we moved our Cherry Blossom day earlier in our plans just to see what was left. We woke up the next morning with beautiful sunshine coming through our hotel windows, giving us hope for the day. That hope was quickly dampened when we stepped outside into the very gusty winds that were left over from the previous night’s storm.
After a bit of research we made the decision to try Shinjuku Gyoen National Park, conveniently located within easy walking of the Shinjuku Metro station. The reports that we had read stated that Shinjuku Gyoen had some of the later blooming trees in Tokyo. We also liked the fact that the national park requires a small entrance fee meaning that it should be less crowded on a sunny Sunday. Upon entering the gates we found a mix of locals and tourists looking at maps trying to figure out where to go. While Mrs A|T looked for an English map a kind older gentleman with a uniform handed me a Japanese map and motioned for me to unfold it. He then pointed to one particular area and in a very heavy Japanese accent told me “best….here”. After giving him an arigato gozaimasu we were on our way. 5 minutes later we came upon a large field surrounded by what could have been the last best Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo for 2013.
In Japan many people practice Hanami, or flower viewing, at this time of year by picnicking under Sakura trees [www.japan-guide.com]. We saw a fair number of people hanging out on mats under the trees and nearly as many walking around and taking photographs. The winds were up and down all day but we enjoyed an entire morning among the cherry blossoms and exploring the park.