Hanami: spring, sakura, and sake

Spring in Japan means sakura. And the arrival of sakura blossoms on the trees is a great excuse to get drunk outdoors. Yeah, you can drink in public here! Not that we’ve ever needed an excuse…

Our 2017 sakura forecast for Osaka started on the last day of March. The cherry blossom-themed merch appeared in shops way before that. Check this 100-yen store display from mid-February:

So early, the Hina Matsuri stuff was still out.

Now, we’ll let you in on a secret. This post was meant to be written over a week ago. But, uh, when we ventured out on the first weekend of April, the trees were still kinda naked. Empty branches everywhere you looked.

April 1st. No sakura. The irony wasn’t lost on us, that’s for sure.

A few days later, everything changed. That’s the beauty of sakura – they bloom and then vanish in what feels like seconds. Barely a block from the DEJAPAN office, this was happening:

Be free, sakura trees! Escape!

Not bad, seeing as there was a fence in the way.

Turns out we also have a gorgeous park within walking distance. The sakura were in full bloom by the middle of the week. So we snuck out on a lunch break to have a wander around. You can see we weren’t the only ones.

Soooooo much sakura.

Castella stand! Those are delicious.

Petals were falling already... curse you, wind.

Yep, this is definitely Japan.

It’s so close to the office that we went straight back when it got dark. For the ‘yozakura’ – cherry blossoms at night.

The weather’s not so cold in the evenings now, so it’s a nice evening activity. And there’s slightly more chance of getting a decent spot to sit. Judging from the drunken cheering coming from a nearby balcony at 6.30pm, we think other people had the same idea.

Okay, so you can only see the sakura because of the pink lanterns everywhere. And at night, our camera may as well be a potato. Hey, it was worth a try.

All the sakura lanterns are sponsored.

It’d be fair to say that some people go a bit nuts for sakura. Here in Osaka, you can find trees in bloom without looking too hard. Nakanoshima and the Yodogawa river area are some prime spots. The Osaka Mint’s an underappreciated place. And living near a park always helps – like Naniwa park or Kouji park.

(Another option for grownups is to head partway out to Kobe, to Uozaki, where a bunch of sake breweries are located. You can do 4 or even 5 brewery tours in a day, easy.)

Sure, all the cool kids rush to Osaka Castle park. We can see why. It’s huge, and full of trees, and the view of the castle’s lovely – depending where you sit. There are other options, is all we’re saying.

We’re just lucky that the arrival of sakura in Japan every spring’s as reliable as a tax bill. If you’re working or on holiday and you miss it, there’s always next time. Maybe next year we’ll have a better camera, as well…

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