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Best Places to Celebrate Cherry Blossoms

by Lesley Peterson

Japanese legend has it that the fairy Ko-no-hana-sakuya-hime awakens flowering trees in spring with puffs of her delicate breath. Strolling under clouds of cherry blossoms, or sakura, the legend is easy to believe. Japan’s thousand-year tradition of cherry blossom viewing has become a rite of spring around the world, a time to reflect on life’s ephemeral beauty and enjoy nature’s magic. Here are some of the best places to celebrate sakura.

Japan

The Japan Weather Association maps the cherry blossom front as it moves up the Japanese archipelago from March to early May. People follow blossoming dates as major news and viewing traditions, called hanami, include poetry, picnicking and plenty of sake. Pick up a portable sake warmer and settle in for an afternoon under the trees at parks, temples and castles throughout the country. The iconic view of Mt. Fuji and its reflection framed in blossoms is best seen from Cape Ubuyagasaki, on the eastern shore of Lake Kawaguchi. What’s possibly the ultimate sakura experience: hiking the 88 Temple pilgrimage route on the island of Shikoku.

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South Korea

The seaside town of Jinhae is South Korea’s most famous cherry blossom destination, with more than 200, 000 trees bursting with heavenly white bloom. Amble along Anmin Road’s five-kilometre tunnel of trees, or climb the 365 steps of the One Year Stairway in Jehwangsan Park to see a blizzard of blossoms against a backdrop of mountains and sea.

Washington, DC

A gift of 2, 000 trees from Tokyo to its sister capital in 1912 has grown into one of the world’s biggest celebrations of sakura and Japanese culture. The National Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off with a kite festival and ends with an elaborate float parade down Constitution Avenue. The large old trees, mainly snowy Yoshinos, are ranged along Potomac Park and around the Tidal Basin. A paddleboat ride or evening lantern walk are great ways to experience the display.

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Scandinavia

Hardy types of flowering cherries survive at surprisingly northern latitudes. To celebrate the bicentennial of Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen, Copenhagen planted 200 flowering cherries in Langelinie Park, home to the Little Mermaid statue. A two-day festival sees martial arts demonstrations, tea ceremonies, a fun flea market and free workshops on Japanese crafts. In Sweden, Stockholm’s stately Kungsträdgården is pretty in pink when dozens of young trees froth overhead. The display is sure to increase each spring, as sakura grow only more beautiful with age.

Vancouver, BC

Vancouver’s month-long festivities celebrate the 40, 000 flowering trees washing the city with all shades of pink. Different cultivars come into bloom at different times. The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival has tips on what’s blooming now and where to find the best photo ops. From Stanley Park to Kitsilano Beach, ‘biking the blooms’ is the best way to go.

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