Tokaido Sakura Journey Enjoy the coming of spring | Japan Highlights Travel, for sightseeing around Tokaido

Tokyo, Shinagawa Station [Sakura avenue by the Meguro River]

With their petals flattering in the wind, beautiful sakura blossoms telling us of the coming of the spring. The impression the sakura create differs in various ways as we change how we look at them or where we look from. It is a beauty that people never get tired of. The sakura along the Tokaido can also be enjoyed in various ways. Sakura stir the soul however we choose to enjoy them; whether we are looking out at them from a ship or a castle tower, or joining in the various festivals held during the flowering period. Having already become firmly established as a Japanese spring tradition, sakura now also attract attention from overseas tourists. The sakura will bloom this year, too, spurred on by the huge expectations of visitors from both Japan and overseas. There are so many renowned sakura spots that even for people who go to see the sakura every year, there are bound to be places offering wonderful scenery that they are yet to visit. Why not visit the sakura spots along the Tokaido, and discover a new excitement?

  • The charm of "sakura", inspiration of poets

  • "Sakura" were a frequent theme for traditional Japanese songs and poems like waka and haiku, as a symbol of spring and also as a word used to stand for flowers in general.
  • For example, the "Kokinwakashu", a collection of poems from the early Heian period, leaves us many words which lament the fleeting lives of the cherry blossoms, such as those of Ariwara no Narihira, who wrote, "If there were no sakura in the world, how calm our hearts would be in spring," or Ki no Motonori, who put it, "The light filling the air is so mild this spring day, so why do the cherry blossoms fall in such haste?"
  • Sakura are beautiful in full bloom and also when they are about to fall. Feeling this way may be a sensitivity which is peculiar to the Japanese, a sensitivity which reflects both the impermanence and decisiveness of a blossom at the moment it falls.

Gifu-Hashima Station [Princess Chujo Seigan Zakura]

  • 1200 years of

    "kan'o"

  • Feasting beneath the sakura blossoms, in other words "hanami", is a Japanese spring tradition.
    Hanami has a long history, and first began as "sakura-gari" among sakura trees growing wild in the mountains. These wild trees were introduced into places where people lived, and it is said that Emperor Saga conducted the first "kan'o-kai" (literally "kan'o party") in the south hall of the Imperial Palace in 812 AD.
  • If it's a question of which is the most famous hanami in history, then the answer is probably the "Daigo no Hanami" held at the behest of Lord Hideyoshi Toyomi. In the 1598, Lord Hideyoshi had 700 sakura trees planted in the grounds of Daigo-ji Temple in Kyoto, and held a grand feast which was attended by some 1300 guests.
Mishima Station [Mishima Taisha Shrine: A row of cherry trees]
Kyoto Station [Daigo-ji Temple]

  • "Hanami": popular these days nationwide

  • Hanami came to be loved by the common people and not just members of the royalty and nobility, but it was a sign to let people know when to plant rice, and people generally admired a single sakura tree planted in the precincts of a shrine or temple, or within the gardens of a feudal lord.
  • In the Edo period however, hanami as enjoyed by ordinary people underwent significant change. The people from Edo found a refreshing aspect in the scattering of the sakura, and likened to their own local character such attributes as the unpredictability of when they would bloom. In particular, Edoites saw the very image of their own temperament in the somei-yoshino, a variety cultivated towards the end of the Edo period which would come into bloom all at once, only to scatter just as suddenly. They would try to predict when the trees were going to bloom, and in groups of friends flock to popular sakura spots, armed for the occasion with snacks and sake.
  • As you will already know, this hanami style has been passed on to the people of today. Hanami spots increased in number when a variety of sakura trees were planted after the Meiji Restoration. Each sakura is beautiful in its own way. These days people have fun deciding on which hanami spot to go to with their family and friends.

Atami Station [Itogawa River Promenade]

Kakegawa Station [Kakegawa Castle Park Sakura Matsuri]
Shin-Osaka Station [The Japan Mint Opens its Doors to Sakura Viewers]

  • A surprising fact about sakura

    Plum was more popular than sakura?

  • There is an Edo hauta (a kind of folk song) which asks, "Are the ume blossoming? And do the sakura still not?" So the blossoming of ume, or plum trees, also announces the beginning of spring. In fact, sakura hanami began only in the Heian period, while in the preceding Nara period ume was the blossom of choice, plum trees having only just been introduced from China. In the oldest collection of Japanese poetry, the "Manyoshu", works which mention ume actually outnumber those about sakura. This situation is reversed in the Heian period's "Kokinwakashu".
  • It may well be the case that for the Japanese, ume and sakura are not just flowers, but also symbols which reflect the very spirit of the Japanese people.

Kyoto Station [Kitano Temmangu Shrine Ume Garden Opening]

Spring in full bloom:

Many ways to enjoy sakura

To sum up our history of Japanese hanami, let's look at some of the diverse ways modern people have for enjoying sakura. Sakura, with one face by day and still another by night; sakura, bringing people together to laugh and smile; sakura, delightful when the first blossoms appear, delightful decked in full bloom, and delightful when their petals fall.... Let's hope that this year too, we can all enjoy this beautiful yet fleeting dream time to our heart's content.

Tokyo, Shinagawa Station
[ Sakura avenue by the Meguro River ]

※Depending on the weather, natural conditions etc., it may not be possible to see views like the ones in the photos / articles above. Furthermore, blooming and event schedules may vary.

updated on Mar 26, 2018