Japan is known for vibrant landscapes, but never is the country more beautiful than when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. From the beginning of spring, the land seems to erupt with millions of tiny pink, white and even reddish sakura blossoms. Where cherry trees glow in close proximity, it appears as if puffy pink clouds are hovering for miles across the horizon, just above the surface of the ground. The feeling is almost magical as you walk beneath the heavy bows. Gentle spring breezes will whisk the delicate flowers off the branches, leaving the petals to float in a dream-like decent to the grass below.
Once the cherry blossoms have completely bloomed, they only stay in full flower for about one to two weeks. Each region blooms during a different time depending on the temperature of the season. Those weeks might be as early as March or as late as May and the Japanese know to enjoy the beauty as long as they can before the flowers fade. For example, in the stunning Nagano region, which is located in central Japan, Takato Castle is stands on striking grounds with snow-capped mountains in the back ground. The lands around the castle host nearly 1,500 deep pink cherry trees –many of which are over 130 years old. Here the flowers bloom later in the spring; therefore the Takato Jyoushi Park Cherry Blossom Festivals occur usually in April to May.
In the southern regions, Kyushu is a popular place to enjoy the luxuriant cherry blossoms, as many parks and castles in the area provide magnificently varied views of the cherry trees. The flowers bloom earlier in this region from March to early April. Kumamoto Castle in Kyushu is a well-frequented location, since the site remains intact from when it was first built in 1607. The castle itself is worth exploring and the Japanese gardens around the castle boast over 1,000 cherry trees, adding to the majestic ambience of Kumamoto Castle.
During the cherry blossom festival season, in every region throughout Japan, families and friends will gather in the parks for a hanami. The word hanami literally means viewing flowers and dates back hundreds of years ago when Japanese royals would dine under the branches of the cherry blossom trees and write poetry. During the festival season, a hanami is comprised of groups that gather in the parks and to enjoy picnics together, drink sake, and watch the performing arts presented, listen to music and watch parades near the park. Vendors will sell handmade crafts, regional wares and food in the main areas. Many of the festivals will celebrate into the evening with light up events and Japanese lanterns, etc. The dates of festivals vary by region every year and are arranged based on the blooming forecast of the trees. But when the festivals do occur, both natives and visitors get to experience the fleeting beauty of Japan’s most beloved flower, the sakura.
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