Sakura in spring: the ultimate guide to cherry blossom season

From Shanghai to Amsterdam, people across the globe eagerly await the arrival of sakura season each year. Originating in Japan, the ancient tradition of hanami (flower viewing) sees communities coming together to celebrate the unrivalled beauty of cherry blossom in bloom. With food and festivals aplenty in Asia (and beyond), here’s our guide to experiencing the joys of sakura for yourself next spring.

Once upon a time…

Legend has it that emperors and members of the Imperial Palace used to host feasts under blooming cherry trees in 8th century Japan. Over time, the tradition expanded to the whole of Japanese society. Today, hanami festivals happen all over the world (wherever there’s a cherry tree, of course).

Flower power

Community is at the heart of hanami. Family, friends and colleagues gather together under cherry blossom canopies to share food, drink and happy memories. With the sake flowing, festivities continue throughout the day and into the night. As darkness sets in, paper lanterns illuminate the blossoming trees, making for picture-perfect photo opportunities. A time for gratitude and appreciation, everyone is welcome. So grab a picnic blanket, pack a hamper and head for the trees.

Sweet as (cherry blossom) pie

Indulge during your flower viewing adventure in sakura-inspired food and drink, from traditional treats to popular snacks:

Mochi… think pink. This rosy-hued rice cake is filled with red bean paste and wrapped in a salty cherry blossom leaf.

Sake… a classic Japanese drink. Enjoy a glass (or two) of sakura-flavoured sake as you admire the blossom.

Cake… one for those with a sweet tooth. Salted sakura petals are baked into the sponge, which is topped with cherry blossom cream and pink icing.

Tea… a celebratory drink. Hot water is poured over pickled cherry blossoms to create a delicate floral taste.

Macarons… a Sakura twist on a French delicacy. Cherry blossom is used to flavour and decorate these sweet treats.

Pick of the bunch

Our top 5 hanami hotspots:

Maruyama Park, Japan… famous for its weeping cherry blossom trees. Follow the Philosopher’s Path along the canal, past shrines and temples adorned with pink petals.

Soak up the Kyoto way of life at The General Kyoto Takatsuji Fuyacho, a Zen-inspired boutique.

Ueno Park, Japan… home to cherry trees, art galleries, museums and a zoo. Be sure to visit the park at night as well as during the day for the full festival experience.

Return to tranquillity at the Hotel Gajoen Tokyo with a stroll through its water gardens.

Yangmingshan National Park, Taiwan… natural beauty in the heart of the mountains. Spend the day lost amongst cherry blossom and surrounded by wildlife, high above the city.

Spend an elegant evening among original artworks at San Want Residences Taipei.

Seoul Forest, South Korea… the perfect place for a budding romance. Away from the crowds and bursting with colour, treat your significant other to a picnic in the forest.

End the day with cocktails at the Hotel28 Myeongdon rooftop bar.

Amsterdamse Bos, Holland… a surprise, but no less worthy contender, Amsterdam’s annual sakura festival features hundreds of trees in bloom, gifted by Japan to the city.

Stay at Canal House, a restored waterfront gem with a glamorous lounge.

Top tips

Check meteorological sites before you book to find out when the cherry blossom is set to appear in your chosen destination.

Pack lots of layers and warm clothing – it can still be chilly in spring, especially at night.

Don’t forget your camera.

Did you know?

The “Cherry Blossom Capital of the World” is Macon in Georgia, USA.

There are over 600 varieties of cherry trees in Japan.

Left untouched, cherry trees can grow up to 80 feet tall.

The “Cherry Blossom Park” in Amsterdam is home to 400 individually named trees.

Cherry blossom can range in colour from white to dark pink.