The cherry trees have by now opened across a good number of Japan's major cherry blossom sites, save for those in the more northern Tohoku and Hokkaido regions. Much of the county experienced a cold spell over the last few days that temporarily slowed down the blossoms' progress. However, we are now looking at some very warm weather coming up from here on out, which should spur on a full on race to the peak over the next few days.
Today I spent the day checking out Nagoya, which was one of the first cities to start blooming this year. Its cherry blossoms first opened on March 19th, an incredible seven days earlier than average; however, the cold weather that came through since seems to have stopped much of the blossoms in their tracks. The majority of trees that I saw today had very few blossoms open as if they had only begun opening a day or two ago, which frankly I found quite surprising as I was really expecting things to be on the verge of full bloom. But upon closer inspection, the closed buds looked about ready to explode open, so while the best viewing around much of the city may not start tomorrow as earlier predicted it probably won't be more than a few days at the most before everything bursts into bloom.
My first stop this morning was to Tsuruma Park, a large city park with around 1200 cherry trees planted around it. The park is located just outside Tsurumai Station (both JR and subway). And mind the spelling. The park is Tsuruma while the station is Tsurumai. There are plenty of places for cherry blossom viewing parties (hanami) around the grounds, which makes it one of the more popular cherry blossom spots in Nagoya. The cherry trees around Tsuruma Park will be illuminated in the evenings from 18:00-21:00 until April 7th.
A lot of people were out today enjoying the sunshine amid spring break season in Japan. Yet the blossoms didn't quite match as most of the trees only had low percentages of flowers open. It's hard to say what kind of timing to expect at this point, as the buds did look like they were about ready to burst open on many of the trees. And in light of the upcoming warm weather, I think it is just a short time that is needed for the cherry blossoms around the park to really get underway.
The Yamazakigawa Riverside next to the Paloma Mizuho Stadium (nearest subway stop: Mizuho Undojo Higashi Station) is one of Japan's 100 best cherry blossom spots for the hundreds of cherry trees that line the riverside. The trees overhang plenty of nice spots to picnic and form tunnels of blossoms that can be enjoyed while strolling about the paths. The flowers along the river were very similar to, if not a little behind, those at Tsuruma Park, and overall I would put the state at the early stages of opening. However, I think that may speed up soon and things could go really fast once they get going.
The last stop on my list today was Nagoya Castle, which features lots of trees planted around the castle grounds and along the stone walls and moats. The trees here were the farthest along that I saw today, with many sitting just below the 50% open point. With the weather forecast as it is, the blossoms should reach their peak in the next few days.
There were also some very nice weeping cherry trees that were approaching full bloom today. Weeping cherry trees bloom slightly ahead of the more common Somei Yoshino cherry tree, so this is a good sign that the main season peak at the castle isn't too far off. The weeping cherry trees were overhanging a festival area set up with temporary food stands and a stage where live shows and event will be held through May 5th.
Since 2009, Nagoya Castle's former Honmaru Palace, which was destroyed in WW2, is being reconstructed. On June 1st, the second of three sections of the newly reconstructed palace will be opened to the public (the third and last section is scheduled to open in 2018). As preparation for this, the observation decks that used to allow tourists to watch the construction have been closed as more and more of the support structure and enclosing building have been removed.