F Japan in Spring is No.1 in Davao Travelers Choice survey - jeepneyjinggoy

Japan in Spring is No.1 in Davao Travelers Choice survey

Japan in Spring is No.1 in Davao Travelers Choice poll

In a recent jeepneyjinggoy.com social media poll, Japan topped the list on the “Top 6 post-pandemic destinations of Davao travelers.” Food, culture and sights are the main reasons for visiting. The time of year to visit? The sweater weather seasons of Spring and Autumn are the preferred occasions. The former, having more votes, because the Cherry Blossoms are too gorgeous to miss, and the latter because who doesn’t want to dive into a sea of orange and gold? 

Unfortunately, Spring and Cherry Blossom lovers will miss the season and the blooms again (for the third time since the pandemic struck). To date, Japan has not laid down its welcome mat for the tourists. We will have to wait for the 2023 blooms. I can imagine how exciting that will be. 

What’s the favorite Japanese city to be in at Spring time? Tokyo and Osaka are on top of the list because of the accessibility airlines offer from Davao. But whatever the choice is, the season is special. It’s when the Cherry trees take centerstage and wow its audience with its blooms. 

Tokyo is currently a personal favorite (no matter the season, for that matter). Though I have visited other prefectures, I have yet to explore it as extensively as the capital city. Tokyo is a vibrant modern city with a pocketful of Old World surprises. Skyscrapers may rise and blazing neon signs multiply but ancient edifices remain. It’s having to enjoy the old and new in a single stop. 

Just as Japan keeps its man-made structures well-preserved, nature is afforded as much respect. Tokyo has its share of nature’s gifts. It may not be old by Japanese standards, but the gardens of the city are as charming as any other in the country. During the Sakura season, the locals find every chance to spend time outdoors to appreciate the transient beauty of the flowers. It’s called “Hanami” (flower viewing) and it is regarded as the most important event of the year. 

Underneath the towering trees in bloom.  Hanami or flower viewing and it is regarded as the most important event of the year

According to the Japan Meteorological Corporation, the Cherry Blossom forecast for Tokyo this 2022 puts first bloom on March 23rd and full bloom on March 30th. For another seven days after peak bloom, the city will gloriously wear a cloak of heavenly blossoms before it showers the pedestrians and leaves a carpet of petals on the ground. That’s how fleeting the Cherry Blossom season is. 

Sakura lovers, worry not. You can chase the flowering trees as they bloom across Japan. On the Sakura blooms calendar, the country’s southern prefecture of Kyushu Island is the earliest while the northernmost island of Hokkaido is last. Fukuoka in the south expects its first bloom on March 19 and full bloom on March 29. Sapporo in the North will have its first bloom on April 30 and full bloom on May 4. 

Wherever you choose to do your Hanami, it will be memorable. You can either do a walking Hanami through tunnels of flowering trees or spread a mat under a canopy of blooms. 

If you choose Tokyo, one of the most popular Hanami spots is Ueno Park. It lures in the crowd (the party crowd!). It can be a challenge to find a spot under hundreds of flowering Sakura trees. Believe it or not, people mark their spots with blue tarps (picnic mats) early in the day. As the evening comes and the 1000 lamps are lit the landscape is breathtaking. 

Ueno Park is one of the most popular Sakura & hanami spots in Tokyo

A Hanami experience along the Meguro River is also recommended. The river banks of the 8-kilometer river through several chic quarters makes for a pleasant stroll. At the Nakameguro district, paper lanterns illuminate the river and the blooms is a sight to see. Grab a beer from a pop-up stall and enjoy the view. 

Meguro River displays a breathtaking scene during sakura season. The scene at Nakameguro district

For a fee and a limited time in the area, the Shinjuku Gyoen is one spot to visit. It’s one of Tokyo’s largest and most popular parks. Home to numerous cherry trees of diverse varieties, the park is a must-see place in the center of the energetic Tokyo district. 

Home to numerous cherry trees of diverse varieties, Shinjuku Gyoen is a must-see place in the center of the energetic Tokyo district

Here’s a trivia on Hanami. 1.It’s a centuries-old practice in Japan that started in the Nara Period (710-794) with the appreciation of the Plum (ume) blossoms; 2. The attraction of Sakura came in the Heian Period (794-1185) then Hanami became synonymous to Sakura; 3. The Hanami chronicle: originally limited to the elite of the Imperial Court, spreading to the Samurais next, then to the commoners in the Edo period. The Shogun encouraged the Hanami (and feasting with food and sake) by planting Sakura trees; 4. The Japanese believed that kami dwells in the sakura; 5. Originally, the Sakura was used to forecast the year’s harvest and announce the rice-planting season. 

A love affair with the season’s spectacle is imminent. It can be love at first sight and something one won’t get enough of. Perhaps because it occurs once a year and swiftly at that. 

The fleeting beauty of the sakura. The life of a bloom is about 14 days from kaika (opening of the bud) to sayonara (farewell)

Also published in the SunStar Davao newspaper.

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