Discovery

Heading for Japan to celebrate Sakura!

In 2018, ATR delivered its 1500th aircraft to the airline Japan Air Commuter (operating services in support of Japan Airlines), which flies to destinations within Japan. A perfect opportunity, as spring arrives, to take a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun and celebrate – alongside the Japanese – the exquisite beauty of cherry blossoms, or Sakura, a symbol of the rebirth of Nature.

Despite being fervent admirers of all things technical, ultra-connected and predominately city-dwelling (92% of the population), the Japanese remain highly in tune with nature, one of the pillars of Japanese culture. This probably explains the palpable excitement that takes hold of the country in early spring when the cherry blossoms come into bloom, laden with symbolism of rebirth. From late March onwards, the entire country tracks signs of the first cherry blossoms – a practice that has become a national sport, with everyone competing to post the most breathtaking photo on social media.

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Three things you need to know about Sakura

In the beginning, it was all about rice

Although you’d never think so, the passion for cherry blossom is a centuries-old practice linked to… rice-growing! The blossoming season, which stretches from March to May, depending on the province, is also the ideal time of year for sowing rice, which in the past was synonymous with a period of festivities and celebration among peasants.

A very serious matter

In Japan, Sakura is a matter of national concern! Every year, the Japan Meteorological Corporation (JMC) – the national Met Office – publishes a forecast for each province, to ensure visitors don’t miss out on one of the greatest shows of the year. The “cherry blossom front” starts in southern Japan in early March and gradually moves northwards. In the most Northern provinces, cherry blossoms are in full bloom in early May. All of the country’s TV channels are on high alert, to track the blossoms as they flower and rush to report the event on their daily news programme.

The Hanami ritual

A true institution in Japan, Hanami is a picnic with family or friends under a blossoming cherry tree, to admire the sakura and celebrate the return of spring. The most spectacular spots are often inundated: you have to get there early – or even the day before –, lay down your picnic blanket and sign up to reserve your spot!

Top 5 Sakura-viewing and Hanami spots

Ueno park in Tokyo: located in the heart of Tokyo and home to around 800 cherry trees, this park is the most sought-after in the capital when it comes to sharing a picnic under the Sakura. At dusk, lanterns illuminate the trees in full bloom and the park is transformed into the backdrop of a highly popular festival.

Fort Goryokaku in Hokkaidō: a star-shaped fortress, filled with a thousand cherry trees. It is the undisputed top spot on the island, and one of the most popular in Japan.

Nara and Mount Yoshino, whose slopes are adorned with 30,000 cherry trees. The site is divided into four zones, each with its own blossoming period. The ideal setting through which to wander and snap as many amazing shots as you can!

The Philosopher’s Path: this well-known trail located in Kyoto owes its name to the famous philosopher Kitarō Nishida (1870-1945). To get to Kyoto University, the wise man used to walk along this paved path every day, meandering along the banks of a canal lined with 2 kilometres of cherry trees. A dreamlike backdrop, perfect for meditation. 

Miharu Takizakura, a symbolic tree: it is poignantly ironic that Miharu Takizakura, a beautiful cherry tree over 1,000 years old with exceptional dimensions, should be located in Miharu, just thirty kilometres from Fukushima, a region that was devastated by the explosion of the nuclear plant of the same name on 11 March 2011. This outstanding tree is 12 metres tall and has an east-west spread of 22 metres!

Regularly voted “the most beautiful tree in Japan”, its blossoms spread in all directions from the branches, like a waterfall. It would be hard to find a more powerful symbol of the resilience of Nature.

Ueno park in Tokyo
Fort Goryokaku in Hokkaidō
Nara and Mount Yoshino
The Philosopher's Path

More info

Check out the 2019 Sakura forecast: www.jnto.go.jp/sakura/eng/index.php

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