At this time it's Sakura season in Japan especially in Kyoto and Osaka. While the cherry blossoms bloom, Japanese people enjoy this by gathering together where the trees are found. Spreading their mats out they are having sake, dine or just walk in the park. This is called Hanami which was a pleasant experience when I was in Japan already 13 years ago. OK people are more interested in drinking and eating but all this together was a nice happening. Kyoto is extremely popular around this time which you might can imagine because of the nice scenery in this old capital. The old tradition of Hanami (accually flower viewing) goes way back in Japanese history and is first mentioned in this meaning in the Japanese first novel – Genji Monogatari from the 11th century. It is said it even started during the Nara period (710-784) where it was ume (plum) blossoms that they admired.
Apparently this Japanese custom of enjoying beautiful flowers is also celebrated outside Japan for instance in Washington DC. Because it was too early I missed the blooming while I was there. According the predictions flowers will reach their peak during the period of 11 – 14 April this year in DC. Next time I should plan my visit a bit later.
You might wonder the link between cherry blossoms and DC? Well the cherry blossom trees were a gift from Japan in 1912. Annually since 1935, the National Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C. celebrates spring and the enduring friendship between the people of the U.S. and Japan. A nice gesture right?
From March 20 – April 12 national cherry blossom festival is celebrated. So if Kyoto is fully booked just head to DC. However if you cannot catch them at their peak, there are still several activities around the city to come in the Sakura mood.