Admiring the springtime blooms is a bit of a national obsession common to both Britain and Japan. In spite of the cold, the first blossoms are being rapturously received in the UK in 2020 as we speak, and the first wave of cherry blossoms has started in Japan.
Here in the UK we are known for seasonally swooning over daffodils, snowdrops and glades of bluebells, but we do also proudly boast a good number of cherry trees – both imported Japanese and wild.
Hanami: What is it?
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’ which charts the expected progress of the blossoms. There are lots of recommended destinations for spectactular cherry blossom viewing in Japan on the Japan National Tourist Organisation website.
Appreciating the sakura is literally ‘flower viewing’, 花見 (hanami) in Japanese, and people gather together to celebrate 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 here 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.
Cherry Blossom Viewing ‘Hanami’ Parties
If you like to enjoy your blooms with others, join a hanami 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, so check their website / subscribe to their mailing list for details.
The London Japanese Conversation Meetup Group also usually holds an annual hanami event in Regent’s Park. Check their meetup profile for updates.
Outside of London? From the cherry walk at Kew Gardens, to Tatton Park in Cheshire, to the special Hanami event on April 19/20th 2020 Brogdale Farm in Kent, it is worth checking out if there is a particular place to catch sakura blooms near you!
Search for Sakura in London Parks
If you are heading out independently 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’ . I can’t tell you how much I love it!
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. Woohoo! An invaluable guide, considering how large our London parks are.
By way of thanking Fran for rounding up this incredible info, why not grab a copy of her East-West Fusion murder mystery, The Cherry Blossom Murder (Josie Clark in Japan Mysteries)? (amazon associate link).
Cherry Blossom Trees on London Streets
Are there any cherry trees on the streets near you? We are lucky enough to pass five trees – all in bloom in differing delicate pinks) on our three minute walk to our local primary school, right here in leafy old Tottenham.
If you want to get to know your local street trees of all types, the fortuitously named tree expert Paul Wood released his smashing guide to street trees in London, including tips on where to spot cherry blossom on urban streets, in 2017. A 2020 version will be released on March 28, 2020 & is available for pre-order now: London’s Street Trees 2020: A Field Guide to the Urban Forest (amazon associate link).
For all you lucky South Londoners, author Paul Wood will lead a Herne Hill walkshop scheduled for Sunday 29th March 2020 10.30am – 12.30pm, when ‘glorious Japanese Yoshino cherry trees will, with luck, be in full flower. This species is unusual in the UK, but is the most frequently found in Tokyo’. Tickets are about £18 (in advance).
Love Japanese gardens? There are lots of lovely Japan-inspired gardens in London. We are so lucky! I’d recommend your check out this article for more on the topic:
Learning the Japanese language? Did you know JapaneseLondon.com connects learners with wonderful 1-1 native-speaking private Japanese tutors, right here in London? Learn more here.