Sakura Cherry Blossoms in Japan
Cherry blossoms, sakura in Japanese, are probably the favorite flowers of Japanese people. The school year ends at the end of March and starts at the beginning of April. For many Japanese companies, the fiscal year also starts at the beginning of April. For Japanese people, the coming of spring with the cherry blossoms is considered as the “start of the new life” or “rebirth”. Read all about the cherry blossom forecast, with some beautiful pictures and must-try sakura products!
The Cherry Blossoms in Japan 2023 Forecast
Japanese people look forward to the cherry blossom season every year. Towards the end of January, the Japanese Meteorological Agency announces the cherry blossom forecast which is renewed every week. And even on TV, cherry blossoms are often talked about whether they are ready to bloom or not.
In big cities, there is one cherry tree that serves as a marker. When this marker tree has 5 to 6 of blooming flowers, we can declare the start of the cherry blossom season. For example, in Tokyo, this landmark tree is located in Yasukuni Shrine, Chiyoda Ward.
To predict the start of the bloom, there is a rule of 600 degrees. According to this rule, from February 1st, the afternoon temperature is added up and when the total reaches 600 degrees, the cherry blossoms will open. However, it is still not easy to predict the date of blooming because it is influenced by the temperature every day. After the start of bloom, after one week to 10 days, the cherry trees will be in full bloom.
The Different Varieties of Cherry Trees
In Japan, there are about 100 species of wild cherry trees that have been created naturally by hybridizing original species. There are about 10 original species and more than 300 varieties of cultivated cherry trees. So most of the cherry trees that we find in Japan nowadays are cultivated cherry trees. And the variety called Somei-Yoshino (染井吉野) is the most common variety in Japan. Actually, more than 80% of cherry trees we have in Japan are Somei-Yoshino).
The first cherry trees bloom in Okinawa from the end of January and the cherry tree front finally arrives in Hokkaido in early May. So these are the different varieties that are planted in different places in Japan.
This is the most common variety in Japan. So when Japanese people talk about sakura, most of the time we talk about Somei-Yoshino. But it is a variety produced quite recently. Somei-Yoshino was created by a Tokyo gardener in the Somei commune (current Toshima-ku district). Hence its name, towards the end of the Edo period. As Somei-Yoshino is easy to propagate, grows quickly, and does not require much treatment, the cultivation of Somei-Yoshino was quickly spread in Japan from the beginning of the Meiji era.
Moreover, the leaves only arrive after the full bloom so we can enjoy the flowers by themselves for a while. This was a good response to the demand of the Japanese people to create a hanami tradition.
Somei-Yoshino is blooming everywhere in Japan and its pink-pale flowers have 5 petals. There is no fragrance.
Kawazu Zakura (河津桜)
The Kawazu Zakura tree bears flowers before the Somei-Yoshino tree does. The first Kawazu Zakura tree was found in 1955 in Kawazu township, Shizuoka prefecture, hence the name Kawazu Zakura (Kawazu cherry trees). In Kawazu, we can admire the flowers of Kawazu Sakura in the middle of February. The 5 petals of Kawazu Zakura have a darker pink hue than those of the Sommei-Yoshino.
Yae Beni Shidare (八重紅枝垂)
As its name literally means “sakura weeping in red with double petals”, the petals of Yae Beni Shidare have a darker pink color than Somei-Yoshino. Yae Beni Shidare blooms a little after Somei-Yoshino.
Sakura and the Japanese People
We can find quotations about cherry trees, sakura, already in the collections of the Heian period (794-1192). We can see that the Japanese of that time admired cherry trees. But until the Ed0 period (1603), only the members of the Imperial Family and the nobles could admire the beauty of cherry trees because they were planted in their gardens.
When the Tokugawa shogunate government set up its castle in Edo (former name of Tokyo), many different wild species were gathered there and gardeners worked to find new species that were easy to treat.
It is the 3rd shogun Iemitsu, who planted the 1st Sakura in Ueno park (which became nowadays one of the most beautiful gardens of Tokyo with cherry trees), and the 8th shogun Yoshimune, in his turn, planted sakura in the bank of Sumida river. Thanks to these shoguns, the Japanese people could admire the cherry blossoms (which were previously reserved for the upper classes) and many Ukiyo-e painters drew this beautiful flower.
Products Related to Sakura
As Japanese people love cherry blossoms they celebrate the blossoming of sakura in many ways. In restaurants, supermarkets, cosmetic departments, etc., we can find products related to sakura. These are always products on the shelves for a limited period. So if you are traveling during the cherry blossom season, you can buy some as a souvenir of Japan.
Sakura Mochi (桜餅)
Sakura mochi is one of the wagashi (Japanese pastry) that we can enjoy only in spring. It is made of pink mochi (rice dough) and red bean paste, and covered with a salted cherry leaf. The leaves used for sakura mochi are the leaves of Oshima-Zakura cherry trees, a wild species. When you see sakura mochi appear at the wagashi bakeries, you can feel the arrival of spring.
In supermarkets, cafes, bakeries, etc., we can find products made with the image of cherry blossoms. Here are some: sakura coffee, sakura wine (there are cherry blossoms in the bottle), sakura noodles (the dark pink color is the color of beet), and even Starbucks makes a drink with the image of sakura!
Even in the cosmetic departments, during the cherry blossom season, we can find a corner dedicated to cherry blossoms. These are cosmetics with cherry blossom aromas. By the way, Somei-Yoshino has almost no fragrance, so it is the essence of Oshima Zukura that is often used. By putting on makeup, we can smell the spring.
Gorgeous Japan with Sakura
Here are some photos I took in recent years during my trip during the cherry blossom period.
The cherry blossoms, sakura, are the symbolic flowers of Japan. They are very fragile and the full bloom does not last long. Perhaps its fragility is the secret of its beauty…
Your Japan Tour
As seasoned Japan experts, we create perfect Japan package tours for cherry blossom season. While you, unfortunately, can’t travel to see the cherry blossoms in Japan in 2021, we are hoping for better luck next year! Check out our group tours and private tours<, or contact us to start planning your unforgettable holiday to this fascinating country full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, culture, history, nature, and delicious food!