Enjoying the Cherry Blossoms in Yamaguchi
Spring in Japan is defined by the blooming of the cherry blossom trees all over the country. In order to truly appreciate the spectacle of cherry blossom trees in full bloom, the Japanese have a tradition known as hanami, (translated as flower viewing). During this time, Japanese will hold a picnic sitting on the ground, usually on a tarp right below the trees, to celebrate the blossoms which are representative of the transient nature of life. Whether it’s with co-workers, friends or family, this time of year will see many of the parks and temples of Japan packed with visitors.
Can’t get the time off to view the blossoms during the day or can’t get enough of the cherry blossom viewing during the day hours? Then take part in a yozakura viewing, translated as night cherry blossoms. Yozaukra offers an opportunity to see the cherry blossoms lit up by lights during the night, equalling the splendour of the day viewing.
Although hanami is translated as flower viewing, this term specifically refers to cherry blossoms and not any other type of flower. The first time that hanami was used to refer to cherry blossoms dates all the way back to the Heian Period, when it was used in reference to cherry blossoms in the Japanese classic The Tale of Genji. Until the Heian Period, it was the plum blossom, and not the cherry blossom, that stood in the limelight within Japanese culture. However, the cherry blossom began to attract attention during this period, and hanami parties were held by the Emperor for the Imperial Court of Kyoto. Although it was first designed for the imperial court, gradually, the practice was taken up among members of the samurai society. By the Edo period, hanami gatherings became popular among commoners as well, in part, encouraged by the cherry blossom trees which were planted in abundance by Shogun Yoshimune Tokugawa during this time.
Today, during the peak period, which lasts barely a week, Japanese turn out in the masses to view the flowers. Each year, the weather bureau will keep track of the areas of Japan which are in full bloom so that people can time their hanami parties at the right time. This blossom forecast is called sakura zensen, or literally, cherry blossom front. From the southern tip of Japan in Okinawa to the northern end of Hokkaido, Japanese will follow the cherry blossom forecast in far more earnest than the normal weather forecast, waiting for that perfect sunny day to catch them in full bloom. The hana yori dango, meaning dumplings over flowers, pokes fun at the real intention of some viewers, which is to enjoy the dumplings in front of them rather than the blossoms above.
Regardless of your intentions however, hanami is an opportunity to stop and enjoy the beautiful spring scenery while it lasts. Because before you know it, the blossoms will have fallen and the blindingly beautiful pink and white of the cherry blossoms will have faded into the lush greenery of summer. So before this happens, why not set out with a few friends and some beverages to sit beneath the cherry blossom trees and enjoy the ephemeral season of spring, before it becomes just a memory.
Here are the different blossoming stages of the cherry blossoms to keep in mind as you set the date of your hanami.
Below is a list of the best hanami sites in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Ichinosaka River- Modelled after the Kamogawa River in Kyoto, this river in the heart of Yamaguchi City has approximately 200 cherry blossom trees that line both sides of the river.
Kouzan Park- This park has at its center the five-storied pagoda of Rurikoji Temple and is a choice spot for viewing both plum blossoms earlier in February and March, as well as cherry blossoms.
Tokuyama Zoo and Park- The park is well known for its many cherry blossom trees and during the viewing season, the front entrance of the zoo is decorated with lanterns.
Tokiwa Park- Located in Ube City, this area has been included in Japan’s top 100 sites for cherry blossom viewing in the past. The area includes a zoo as well as amusement grounds, and within the Park, there are an astounding 3,500 cherry blossom trees.
Senjyougahara Park- The over 400 cherry blossom trees makes this area the best place to view cherry blossoms in Shimonoseki. There is also a scenic overlook from which to view the entire city.
Kintaikyo Bridge- The Kintaikyo Bridge is known as one of Japan’s three most famous bridges and stretches over the Nishikigawa River. On the bank of the river are 3,000 cherry blossom trees which prove to be a beautiful sight.