This spring, join us in the traditional custom of hanami as we travel to the two countries to witness the cherry blossom trees in their full majestic bloom.
No other place in the world does spring quite like Japan — the candy pink cherry blossoms blanketing the country with their soft splendour under brilliant blue skies and breathtaking backdrops is what you get here. Hanami, as they call it, is the word devoted to experiencing the glory of cherry blossoms to full extent, and even here in India, there are places where you can witness the blooming of sakura (cherry blossom trees) during springtime. We are taking you on a trail through the two countries so you can hanami with the best cherry blossom experiences!
The best cherry blossom experiences in Japan
Kansai is probably Japan’s most famous destination for sakura-bloom. Watch over 30,000 cherry blossoms blanket the towering Koi Mountains. The first trees here were supposedly planted some 1,300 years ago. In the Nara prefecture, Mount Yoshino is definitely the highlight — a huge cherry tree stands atop, with its branches bowing towards the ground. It stays illuminated from dusk until midnight, and looks absolutely breathtaking to say the least. Next, visit the 14th-century UNESCO-listed Himeji Castle, whose white walls offer the perfect backdrop for the thousand cherry trees that burst into life around it every spring.
The capital city is no behind. One of the most popular spots in Tokyo for hanami is Ueno Park, home to 1,000 cherry blossoms, along with interesting museums, shrines, and ponds. The 4km stretch here is illuminated during the two-week season (from late March) so you can stroll through, breathing in the sweet smell of the fresh blooms and gorging on noodles and sticky rice balls on food stalls. If you wish to go somewhere more quiet, head to the English Garden in Shinjuku Gyoen. The rolling, lush lawns here are perfect for a picnic followed by some night-time viewing as you stroll along the banks of the Naka-Meguro canals. The 134-acre 134-acre Yoyogi Park is one of our top things to do in Tokyo, bustling with performers and picnic set-ups, and of course, its 600 cherry trees. Tokyo promises some of the best cherry blossom experiences in the world!
Head to the ancient capital in the sakura season, when blossoms start to appear almost everywhere from the end of March to early April. Visit the popular Maruyama Park, where the tall shidarezakura (“weeping cherry tree”) illuminated at night is sure to leave you speechless. Stretching between Ginkaku-ji and Nyakuou-ji temples, the Philsopher’s Path is a canal path lined with hundreds of cherry trees that ensures a stroll for the soul. Or beat the crowds by heading to Yamashina and witnessing 700 trees lining the canals in peace. A stone’s throw from Kitayama Station, Kyoto Botanical Garden is one of the most popular spots in the city for hanami and has a weeping cherry tree right in at its centre.
The best cherry blossom experiences in India
If you don’t wish to fly down to the land of rising sun, make your way to the Northeast India. As winter begins to set in, clusters of soft pink cherry blossoms take all over the Khasi Hills, hinting at the arrival of spring. Arrive in Meghalaya in November to see them in full bloom. The capital city Shillong turns pink as blossom trees take over the cityscapes. It even hosts the International Cherry Blossom Festival, featuring live music, pageants, dance recitals, cultural events, as well as food stalls where you can relish local cuisine and mouthwatering staples.
Take in the beauty and glory of these pink flowers across Sikkim. Khangchendzonga National Park, a bio-reserve in the north of the state, is the best spot here to enjoy hanami. The species of cherry blossoms found in this part of India varies a little from Japan’s authentic sakura trees ― but they are no less when it comes to beauty. Did you know you can even book a stay at a hotel named Cherry Resort in south Sikkim! Set amid the lush Temi tea gardens, the property is dotted with cherry blossoms and offer panoramic views of Mount Khangchendzonga, as an added bonus.
Not too far away, in the little hamlets of Himachal Pradesh, a real treat awaits. The orchards in Mashobra offer cherry blossom sightings along with that of apricot, peach, plum, apple, and pear trees. Stroll through farms and paths filled with swathes of pastel pink, white, and purple blooms. Drive down to remote orchard towns, and stay at the boutique property of The Nilaya in Naldhera that serves as a picturesque base for your cherry blossom adventures in the region. Take a hike to Narkanda where cherry blossoms bloom next to a variety of flowers. You can spot cherry blossoms at Dharamshala too, a backpacker’s paradise.