Before I came to Japan, I thought sakura was just the name of a Japanese chain restaurant in the States. I never thought about what the word meant. Upon coming to Japan, I learned that sakura is the word for cherry blossom. The cherry blossoms are beautifully flowered trees which bloom in the Spring. Where I live in the Baltimore/D.C. area we have cherry blossoms as well, but they were a gift from Japan many, many years ago. Since I am now in the country where the sakura are indigenous, I definitely wanted the authentic hanami experience! (Hanami = flower viewing)
My first hanami spot was in Kyoto. I had heard that the Philosophers Walk was a great place to see the flowering trees. The sakura lined a canal along the path. There were people everywhere and there were vendors selling crafts and food along the way. My friend and I later headed to the Higashiyama District to shop and saw many of the cherry blossoms fluttering to the ground. We decided we had chosen the perfect weekend for hanami.
The following weekend I visited Himeji Castle. Surrounding the castle are tons of sakura in a big open park setting. It was great to walk around and see all the people enjoying the cherry blossoms. The castle itself is under renovation, so I didn’t get to enjoy the castle much, but the surrounding grounds were great. Nearby was the Himeji shrine which was pretty magical as well with its abundance of sakura. The cherry blossoms were starting to brown, but they were just as beautiful.
When I return to the US I will continue to enjoy hanami in the Baltimore/D.C. area, but I am certainly grateful I got to see them in their home country of Japan!