Almost as quickly as it started, sakura season in Japan is over, and all that remain of Osaka’s beautiful cherry blossoms are the discarded petals that litter virtually every street of the city. The past two weeks have been my first sakura experience and having entered into the period slightly sceptical of the excitement with which ordinary Japanese approach it, I have emerged a fully-fledged convert.
Virtually every stretch of water in Osaka, along with myriad city streets are lined with cherry blossom trees, and for just a few short days each year they deliver a spectacular blast of pink to welcome in summer across the city. There can be little doubt that the few days in which the cherry blossoms flower represent a special time in Japan. The visual beauty of the flowering cherry blossoms is, however, just one half of the sakura experience. For the Japanese, sakura season is all about ‘ohanami’, which though loosely translated as ‘flower watching’, has developed today to mean something closer to ‘eating and drinking to excess amongst the cherry blossoms’.
Although there are countless spots across Kansai to enjoy Sakura I limited my excursions to within Osaka. Alas, my life as a professional tourist is over and I have a pesky job now which restricts my opportunities for travel. There are plenty of places to enjoy sakura around the city though, nowhere more so than Sakuranomiya which, as the name suggests, is home to a particularly large stretch of sakura trees. It also plays host to the annual Osaka regatta which, though not exactly Henley, provides a nice distraction for the hordes of people enjoying ohanami on the banks of the river.
In the north of the city Bampaku-koen provides another great ohanami spot in the grounds of the expo 70 commemoration park. The park is surrounded with sakura and is overlooked by ‘The Tower of the Sun’; an enormous statue that formed part of the World Exhibition in 1970. Thanks to the size of the park and its abundant sakura it is the ideal location for ohanami, and the various parties taking place under the cherry blossoms are particularly impressive here. When the Japanese do picnics they do them properly! There are full size BBQs, tables and chairs and incredible food offerings, as well as vast quantities of sake and beer!
For now though sakura season is over for another year, I just hope the tradition of BBQs by the river continues for the rest of the summer!