Cherry blossom viewing (hanami) is one of the most talked about activities in Japan. The name, hanami, is very fitting, seeing as hana means flower and mi means to look. Hanami started becoming very popular about three centuries ago, and today many people travel the world just to see these beautiful cherry blossoms. This traditional pastime is first recorded in the Edo period but could have been started earlier.
Hanami season begins in late March and goes to the middle of April, with a seven to ten day peak period where the blossoms are in full bloom. Many people hold parties and festivals in honor of the cherry blossoms, and hundreds of people can be seen walking around outside, admiring the beautiful trees. One very common place to visit and admire the cherry blossoms is Omiya Park.
Omiya Park is in the Saitama Prefecture. It was opened in 1885 and is one of “Japan’s Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots”. The park is about sixty-eight hectares (or a little over 168 acres) and is filled with cherry blossoms and Japanese Red Pines, the two things it is most famous for. To get there, it is a little over a forty minute car ride to the north of Tokyo. However, the streets are very crowded during hanami season, and the parking lots (which are free to park in) fill up very fast. Public transportation is recommended, and it is also only a twenty-minute walk from the JR Omiya Station or a ten-minute walk from the Omiya-Koen Station.
A short walk is worth it to see over 1,000 Yoshino cherry blossoms lining the trails of the park. The winding trails and the reflections of the blossoms in the water are absolutely breathtaking. There is a boating pond that you can also go onto and admire the cherry blossoms from the water. This park is completely free to walk through, and it is open twenty-four hours, so you can go see the cherry blossoms at any time of the day. They even light up the park from the end of March to the beginning of April from about seven to nine at night to extend your time enjoying the wonderful blossoms. The park is lit up with traditional paper lanterns, making the entire experience much more magical.
The park is lined with people eating, drinking, and admiring the cherry blossoms, but if you forgot to bring yourself a picnic, that is not a problem. Omiya Park holds around 180 vendors (street carts mostly) filled with everything from brightly colored cotton candy, highly decorated chocolate covered bananas, takoyaki (squid balls), yakisoba (buckwheat noodles), and other traditional snacks to enjoy.
Omiya Park is an excellent place to go view the cherry blossoms. The peak season starts at the end of March, but even if you go a little early, a large majority of the cherry blossoms will already be starting to bloom, and people will be celebrating. If you do stop by the park early, there is also the Omiya Second Park nearby, which has a large apricot tree grove that blossoms from mid-February to March that you can stop in to see (also free of charge). No matter when you come to view the cherry blossoms, it is an awesome sight to behold. The parks, filled with tourists and natives alike, are absolutely wonderful and something you definitely want to see at least once in your lifetime.
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Address: 4 Takahanacho, Omiya Ward, Saitama City, Saitama Prefecture
Access: 15 minute walk from Omiyakoen Station
Website: Omiya Park (Japanese)