Our ten-year-old has wanted to go to Japan to see the cherry blossoms ‘for his whole life,’ and when this years’ cherry blossom festival coincided with school holidays, we decided this was the year to make that life goal happen. Who knows what will now replace it as his new focus, but given that Tokyo also ticked the box on one of his previous passions, visiting every Olympic city, its fair to say it will be difficult to predict but likely also a whole lot of fun for all of us.
We were nervously watching from New York, where the unseasonably cold weather meant that the cherry blossoms in Central Park were a long way from blooming, as online reports suggested spring had come early in Japan and chances where we would miss the best of the blooms. It’s fair to say that by this stage I had well and truly bought into (some would even say taken ownership of) Sam’s cherry blossom obsession, and kept the kids highly entertained with my updates from the various cherry blossom tracker websites I was monitoring.
Just in case it was all over by the time we got to Tokyo, I stocked up on the special edition Jo Malone Sakura fragrance before we left New York so at least I could smell the part.
We arrived at Narita airport, and our driver’s face fell when we told him we where here to see the cherry blossoms. ‘They are gone,’ he sadly informed us, ‘but you might see some of the late blooming pink blossom if you are lucky.’ Not to be perturbed, because this was at odds with what my website trackers had told me, we watched out the window for the hour long journey from the airport into Tokyo, squealing excitedly (well I was at any rate) every time we saw a hint of pink.
We’d seen enough evidence along the way to suggest that we were still going to see plenty of blossom, and arriving at the hotel to be greeted with a special Sakura afternoon tea added to the feeling of confidence.
Rain had set in, meaning we could not only not see any signs of blossom, but actually couldn’t see more than three metres out our window, so we consoled ourselves with the next day’s positive forecast and headed off for an early night.
The next morning we headed to the Imperial Palace, which my research had told me was a prime site for blossom viewing. We were definitely not disappointed, with rows of gorgeous trees providing no shortage of photo opportunities, despite the slightly gloomy start to the day.
My Google Glass even meant I could capture the perfect moment as this swan sailed serenely through the arc created by the blossom branches.
Now that we had seen the blossom in reality, and taken dozens of photos to capture it in all its glory, we could relax our (my) previous level of tension and set about enjoying the rest that Tokyo had to offer, albeit it with a keen eye out for Sakura-themed souvenirs or food.
I don’t know if we had missed the bulk of these, or whether I was just expecting much greater capitalisation on the marketing opportunity that cherry blossomed themed goods could deliver, but there wasn’t a whole lot to be found.
I excitedly bought these glasses, which I thought revealed cherry blossom patterns when cold drinks were poured into them, but sadly it turns out they just leave a blossom shaped condensation ring on the table….
There were still opportunities to be had though, I ate cherry flavoured donuts while wearing rabbit ears in a Harajuku café:
And created my own wearable souvenir with Sakura-themed nail art:
Over the course of the week we got a lot more blasé about the beautiful blooms that featured so heavily wherever we ventured through the Tokyo surrounds, but I still couldn’t resist the opportunity to snap additional pictures whenever the opportunity arose. The Hama-rikyu Gardens had so many different varieties of blooms, from the delicate, fragile pale blossom through to almost pompom style big pink clusters.
While we may have missed the best of the season, there was still more than enough left to entertain and delight, providing the perfect pink backdrop to what may have been our first ever visit to Japan but will definitely not be our last.