If you find yourself in Japan between late March and Mid April you will be lucky enough to witness the phenomenon known as "Hanami" - basically an excuse for a big drunken picnic in a park around lunchtime! Hanami simply means "watching flowers" - this can be any kind of flowers, but usually the term applies to sakura (cherry blossom) as they are the most popular and one of the most delicate flowers. They only bloom for a short time, and are at their most lovely, when they begin to tumble from the trees, which makes them even more morbidly beautiful.
During this time hoards of people flock to their nearest parks and rivers where there are clusters of cherry blossom trees and put down their blankets for a picnic. The main item on the menu is beer, so you will see many red-faced people, particularly students, stumbling through the pretty petal rain around Tokyo. It is my favorite time in Tokyo,just as spring behins; everyone is happy and optimistic, sakura reminds people of past love and future goals, particularly as it kicks off the new school term.
Everyone dressed beautifully, channeling true Harajuku vibes with pastels, neon and Gothic Lolita. The brand of choice on that day seemed to be "Galaxxy" - the cool pop street brand, with its main store located in Shibuya.
I wore "Dark Mahou-kei" inspired by magical girl manga and anime, wearing a Nile Perch JSK and seifuku style jacket from Miauler Mew. I even found a drink that matched my outfit - purple grape smirnoff! Who knew that Smirnoff was kawaii?
I would suggest coming here for Hanami if you want to meet people and dont mind interacting with strangers, a lot of people will ask for photos or just strike up a chat!
The flowers were not yet in full bloom, but they were gorgeous nonetheless. Tokyo Sakura is extra-white compared to other prefectures and looks like powdered snow!
Next up is Tachikawa, we actually went there because they have a giant Ikea there, but ended up popping into the Tachikawa Koen for a look. Again you have to pay about 400yen enter, but the park is really huge and it has its own bike paths so you can rent a bike and go for a ride. The cherry blossom trees were a little sparse there and it was hard to get any decent shots, but it was worth it for the bike ride! We were having a date so it was a great location for that - very quiet and private.
The last Hanami I attended was luckily, the best time when all the flowers were at the peak of their bloom in Ueno park. Ueno park is extremely famous for beautiful and closely placed sakura trees, but also infamous for the crowds that border on the obscene, there is free entry which is probably one of the main causes. In order to lay your blanket in a nice location for a picnic, you have to arrive at about 6 clock in the morning. A lot of companies send out their rookie members early to reserve a spot for their company picnic.
Thus we laid our tarp on an extremely muddy spot, a little far from the trees, nevertheless we had a great time! As usually everyone dressed impeccably cute and brought a huge picnic.
Most people came in pastel fashions such as fairy-kei, mahou-kei or decora, so we looked like we were plucked straight from a 90's mahou shoujo manga.
Another charm point of Ueno park is that there is a huge lake with swan boats in various colors and size, if you feel like being a captain for a day.
The sakura trees were blooming beautifully, there was a slight breeze that day too, which meant that the trees were sneezing petals onto the watchers below and sending a sweet sakura scent floating through the air, the atmosphere was perfect! The crowds made it more exciting for me, as everyone was scrambling in excitement, taking photographs and "ooing" and "ahhing" at the beauty,.
There was also a Japanese style food matsuri, which meant we could pick up festival classics like chocobanana, yakitori and squid!
The park is pretty vast and only a stones throw away from Ueno zoo, but there were also various temples and shrines within the park!
Ueno park wasnt as relaxing as Tachikawa, but it was the most aesthetically pleasing and had the most "Japanese" feel; if you are planning to travel to Japan I definitely recommend hanami season and particularly Ueno park!
Happy flower viewing~