Admiring the springtime blooms is a bit of a national obsession common to both Britain and Japan. Here in the UK we are delighted by daffodils, snowdrops and glades of bluebells, but we do also have a number of cherry trees – both imported Japanese and wild. In Japan cherry blossom is known as ‘sakura’ and it holds a very special place in people’s hearts. There is even a national Japanese ‘blooming forecast’ – in English here on the Japan National Tourist Organisation website.
Literally ‘flower viewing’, 花見(hanami) in Japan appreciates the fleeting, frothing beauty of the cherry blossom trees, most often by sitting underneath them to drink and picnic. Although springtime weather tends to be less settled in the UK, we can still enjoy this custom – if we time it right and the petals haven’t blown away! Read on to find out how and, importantly, where to enjoy the season.
If you like to enjoy your blooms with others, join a gathering in London. The Japanese Conversation Group (affiliated to The Japan Society London) hold an annual hanami event, usually under the trees in Kensington Park. Naturally, the date changes every year. The London Japanese Conversation Meetup Group also usually holds an annual event in Regent’s Park. Check the websites for updates.
This smashing BBC article ‘What is Britain’s best blossom?’ is from 2012 but gives us an interesting overview of the tree species, and ideas of where we can find blooms all around the UK. From the cherry walk at Kew Gardens, to Tatton Park in Cheshire, to Brogdale Farm in Kent, it is worth checking out if there is a particular place to catch sakura blooms near you!
Another good round-up of UK-wide cherry blossom locations – from Cornwall to Wales – can be found in this rather ponderously titled Time Out article: Sakura in spring: time to pop your cherry!
If you are heading out in search of flowers in London, then the ‘Sequins and Cherry Blossoms’ blog by London writer Fran Pickering is essential reading. Her splendid blog boasts several fantastically comprehensive articles on London cherry blossoms, such as ‘London Parks Cherry Blossoms Top Five’ . You can find not only your nearest park, but also the exact location of the cherry trees (see on location photos of cheering clouds of sakura in the ‘virtual tours’ section), so no time wasted! An invaluable guide, considering how large these London parks are.
Worried about your sushi tray taking flight in a sudden gust of wind? Why not try the wonderful weather-proof event ‘Sakura at Sake No Hana’ restaurant, St James’ Street? No need to fret about when & where to catch the elusive blossoms, as the bar area is conveniently transformed into a gorgeous cherry blossom garden offering a limited edition menu inspired by spring! Created by Head Chef Hideki Hiwatashi, the menu is available from 2oth March until 10th June. Read JapaneseLondon.com’s review of ‘Sakura at Sake No Hana’ here.