Sakura season in Tokyo has come early, starting almost two weeks earlier than average due the warm February temperatures. That makes it the earliest bloom since records began, although we won’t be seeing the huge crowds that the stunning cherry blossoms normally attract.
Tokyo uses the cherry trees at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward to judge when the Sakura season begins, and agency officials who have been keeping an eye on these trees were able to announce the appearance of five tiny blossoms on March 14th. The Somei-Yoshino trees at Yasukuni Shrine are exactly how you’d picture Japanese blossoms, and are famous for their white flowers shaded with light pink, with petals that fall like snowflakes into romantic movies and shojo manga.
Sakura have already begun to bloom in other areas of the country including Hiroshima and Fukuoka, and areas like Kyoto and Osaka are expected to join those prefectures in blossoming earlier than normal over the next few days.
Limits on Gathering
Normally locals and tourists would be planning Hanami meetups, bringing picnic lunches and a fair amount of alcohol to enjoy as they sit under the pink petals and enjoy the warmth of spring. Sadly these events and meetups are being discouraged, just as they were last year. It’s unavoidable but still disappointing to see popular locations like Nakameguro and Sumida Park having to reduce the scale of gatherings or cancelling them altogether. Still, many in Japan are too much in love with Sakura to stop at Hanami, and we’re already seeing some ways to celebrate the blossoms without heading into crowds.
Sweet Sakura Snacks
As always, you can expect the Sakura themed merchandise and menus from Starbucks to be a hit. They’ll be releasing a Sakura fluffy Berry Frappuccino and Milk Latte both, topped with vanilla crumbs, strawberry and raspberry. There’s also coffee packaged for the spring, pink cakes and doughnuts, as well as a cute selection of Sakura 2021 mugs, flasks, cups and even stationary.
If you stopped listening when I stopped talking about Sakura themed food, you might like to know that the popular chain store Mister Donut has announced a collaboration with Gion Tsujiri, one of Japan’s most famous tea manufacturers who have been in business since around 1860. That means Sakura and Green Tea donuts which look amazing, and which I can only imagine taste just as good because I haven’t managed to get my hands on any yet.
If even that’s not enough for you, the cuteness overload which is the Tokyo Kirby Café will be releasing a ‘Cute Spring Picnic’ selection, which includes special occasion Temari Sushi balls and a mini Kirby made of Sakura Mochi and wrapped up in cherry blossom leaves.
Make a Virtual Visit
Unfortunately I can’t advise an outdoor picnic in the cherry blossoms this year. But I can suggest checking out the live streams which are happening online! Join Kazuya Sato for an online traditional music concert in a cherry blossom filled temple in Kyoto. Just search for Sakura (桜) on YouTube and filter by live streams. Or if you can’t wait unless the blossoms reach their peak you could look at one of the 360 degree recordings stored in the Japanese weather news’ archive.
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