Early April is a magical time to be in Japan. There is a nationwide obsession with the “sakura,” or cherry blossoms. And sakura fever is infectious.

Ueno Park

Catching sakura fever at Ueno Park

Late March when we arrived to our hometown, Kawagoe, we started to see glimpses of this fever. The innocent pink blooms start to stand out among the grayness of the city and the bareness of winter. A seemingly stoic passerby would suddenly stop and produce a camera to zoom in on a perfect shot of a colorful limb.

The cherry blossoms set a perfect scene on campus at Tokyo International University as students and parents gathered for the school’s opening ceremonies in early April. The perfect symbolism for renewal, a new school year.

On Saturday, we had an opportunity to see firsthand the “Hanami,” or cherry blossom viewing parties at Tokyo’s Ueno-kōen (park).

On the train and the crowded streets outside of Ueno, it’s business as usual. You’d never guess what you’re about to see. We followed the masses.

Upon entering, the mad rush of the city floats away and is absorbed by the petals of flowering tree after tree after tree after tree.

Ueno Park

Boats circle Shinobazu Pond as Bentendo Temple watches over.

Hundreds of cameras emerge, and we, too, try to capture the sight. But it’s futile. No picture can describe this. Better to put the camera away and enjoy the moment.

Ueno Park

Part of the Hinami is picnics under the trees. Friends and families gather and stake out their spot with tarps, food and drink. The shoes come off and the party begins. As our guidebook puts it, “locals gather…for rare public displays of euphoria.” Euphoria and maybe a little public drunkenness. But come on, this only happens once a year! The Japanese define what it means to work hard, play hard.

Geishas in the park

Typical? Probably not. But we’re tourists so we flock to see the geishas.

Ueno Park

Hanami at Ueno park

Part of this seasonal madness is sakura-flavored everything. Drinks, pastries, ice cream, candy, you name it! Get it while it lasts. I had the opportunity to try sakura-flavored ice cream and it was one of the best ice cream cones I’ve had here. Not that I’ve sampled a lot or anything.

Sakura ice cream

How does a cherry blossom taste, you ask? My answer: not too sweet, a little flowery and definitely a little bit magical.


  • Reply Pugs April 7, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Wow, looks like you both had a wonderful time. Robert, you look like you’ve lost more weight. If the camera adds 20 pounds then you’ve definitely lost weight.


    • Reply Viktoria April 9, 2014 at 11:36 am

      🙂 We ARE walking everywhere but we’re also trying a lot of treats.

    • Reply Robert April 10, 2014 at 11:29 am

      Thanks! I’m going to need new shoes every couple months at this pace.

  • Reply Jerry Haddan April 7, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Nice Pictures of the park and the Cherry Blossoms.

    • Reply Viktoria April 8, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      Thanks, Jerry!

  • Reply Brian Bertsch April 8, 2014 at 9:01 am

    You two are doing a fantastic job documenting your new life. Keep the updates coming!

    • Reply Viktoria April 8, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      Thank you!

  • Reply Tokyo – Ikebukuro and Ueno | Cascadian Abroad April 8, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    […] At the end of the show, we headed back to the station and caught the next train to Ueno Park to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom. You can read Viktoria’s post on the magic of sakura and the geisha picnic. […]

  • Reply Lori Palmer April 9, 2014 at 1:25 am

    Looks beautiful!! And I bet that ice cream is amazing!

    • Reply Viktoria April 9, 2014 at 11:35 am

      Thanks for reading!

  • Reply Lise April 17, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Sounds like you two are off to a great start! You’ve only been there for a short time and already had some great-looking adventures–can’t wait to read more!

  • Reply The True Meaning of Hanami | Cascadian Abroad April 2, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    […] the weekend, I received another e-mail from Tomoko. She invited us to join her for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) at the park near our house. We accepted the invite, albeit with some […]

  • Reply In Bloom: Sakura | Cascadian Abroad April 8, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    […] two magical weeks, spring boldly announces its presence all over Japan in the form of sakura—the blossoms of the Japanese cherry tree. Families and friends come together for viewing parties […]

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