Well-kept secrets about the cherry blossoms

I love cherry pie …

With all these Cherry trees in bloom, surely there
must be an abundance of cherries …

Yet I hadn’t seen a single cherry tart, no jam, no
liquor and worst of all … no pie.

What do they do with all those Cherries? I will
tell you in just a second, but first, this is what
it’s like to actually experience the blossoms.

It was early morning in downtown Tokyo and we were in
Ueno Park. The Cherry trees were in full bloom and
we wanted to see what all the fuss was about. You
see, to herald the end of winter and the coming of
spring, the Japanese look to nature … and
specifically Cherry trees. I had heard this
before, and it was one of the aspects of this trip
to Japan that I was curious about, but nothing I
had heard or read about the Cherry Blossom
celebrations could have prepared me for what we
were about to see.

The first thing we noticed was just how
many Cherry trees there were…literally
hundreds, perhaps thousands in this park alone.
And they are all over the country, from South to

The news reports each day featured announcements
of where the Cherry trees are blooming that day.
It’s a big deal, as Japanese people travel all
over the country to see the Sakura or Cherry
Blossoms. The next thing that struck me were the
large blue tarps under all the trees.


Cherry Blossom viewing Tokyo

It was still early in the day, but there were
tarps placed almost everywhere yet there were very
few people around. Occasionally you would see one
lone person sitting or laying down on one of the

We later found out that these are typically office
underlings who have been sent by their employer to
claim the patch of land under a Cherry tree in
bloom, lay out a tarp and wait for the rest of the
crew from the office to arrive.

Families, groups of friends and coworkers gather
together in groups under the Cherry Trees to practice
Hanami – literally flower viewing, but almost always
understood to mean Cherry Blossom viewing. In the
spring, it’s something of a national pastime.



To learn more about our cherry blossom trip
in March 2012 and book your spot today!

As the day passed we saw more and more people
gather in the park. First they would walk through
the park to enjoy the beauty of the Cherry
Blossoms and later they would rest under a tree
and spend time with friends or family.

We saw the tarps that had been laid out for
companies start to fill with employees and cases
of beer, bento boxes and snacks and sake. As we
walked around, there were invitations to sit down
and enjoy the food and even more invitations to
partake in the sake.

One person told us that if a Cherry Blossom petal
flutters down into your sake cup you will have
good luck. I wouldn’t have thought that we could
spend a whole day walking around a city park, but
given all the food to try, and the Cherry Blossoms
to view and all the Japanese enjoying one of their
most revered traditions, the day flew by.

Fortunately the timing of our trip to Japan was
perfect and we were able to see this most
important and beautiful celebration for the next
few days in three cities: Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara.
Some of the most beautiful celebrations in the
world are based on very simple ideas and nowhere
is this more evident than in Japan during the

Oh, about all the Cherries. There are

The Cherry trees are all ornamental and don’t
produce fruit. It wasn’t until I returned to
Toronto that I got to have my Cherry pie. While
walking around Tokyo that day, it struck me that
Japan is a country of contrasts, like the old and
the new, traditional and modern, Geisha and Punk

More on that in my NEXT post


CLICK HERE To learn everything about our Japan
Cherry Blossom Trip from March 31 to April 16, 2012
and book your spot to accompany me.

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6 Responses to Well-kept secrets about the cherry blossoms

  1. Grace says:

    I am so busy today, that when your e newsletter arrived in my inbox, I wasn’t going to read it, but I’m so glad I did. The sense of peace and calm you have just created was just what i needed and now makes me really want to visit Japan – thank you for sharing! Plus I want to know about the cherries

  2. Sue Coleman says:

    Thanks for bringing back wonderful memories of my time living in Japan! I associate Hanami with going to watch the Sumo Basho (tournament) in Osaka as well as spending hours under the Cherry Blossom trees with choir friends from Kobe Freude Chorus – ahhhh – great memories

  3. stan says:

    ……….and another luscious sight is the sumptuous catered lunches and/or dinners that begin to arrive to be deposited carefully onto the blue tarps everywhere (or maybe simply packed by mama!?)……..one could make a life there….and with all the saki going down i doubt if they would soon even notice or care that you are a westerner……or non-Japanese-speaking…….(THEY ARE ALL THERE TO PARTY!) if so, perhaps even more of a trophy for their group!!! I felt like I was observing a private celebration but since not nearly as young and handsome as Karl perhaps not quite as sought after…….but a mama and her 2 sons had carefully led me to that part of the park in spite of (or because of) the fact that I was 75 years old…………perhaps they thought I just needed a good rousing celebration….or a good meal! after all, they have waited a whole year for this auspicious time!!!

    previously in Bali a Japanese couple on a honeymoon and dining at the table next to mine (on a drop-dead breath-taking deck overlooking the sunset ocean) bought a bottle of champagne to toast me when the overheard that it was my birthday evening…..and no English was exchanged……. but they took photos and forwarded them to me later…….they could understand that i was from Colorado and he loved to ski!

    I recommend Karl’s trip whole-heartedly and completely without reserve but do take warm clothes….. just in case! their weather unpredictable in spring and not always quite as balmy as i had hoped for or expected……….

    • anna says:

      Hi Stan,
      Love your stories as always! It is these special moments that make travel so rewarding! Champagne on your birthday! Now that is how it should be!

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