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Osaka: Full Bloom

Osaka Castle surrounded by blossoms at full bloom

It's full bloom for cherry blossoms around southern and central Japan this week as the 2016 sakura season continues. Many of the best sakura viewing spots in major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka are at their peak now and may stay at their best through the rest of the week, provided Thursday's forecasted rain and strong wind doesn't take down too many now-open petals. Unfortunately, however, this is looking very possible at this point; get the latest conditions with our cherry blossom forecast and upcoming reports for more.

Today, Raina and I are reporting from the Kansai Region of Japan, where the weather has turned sunny and the cherry blossoms are out in full bloom almost everywhere you turn. After a slightly rainy but flower-ful day in Tokyo yesterday, this morning I made my way to Osaka to check on a few of the city's best hanami spots at their peak (just a week after Scott's last visit about a week ago). As expected, the sakura were at their prime all across the city.

Sakuranomiya Park

Full Bloom

My first stop today was to Osaka's riverside Kema Sakuranomiya Park. Stretching for kilometers on either bank of the Okawa River, the park's nearly 5000 cherry trees were in full bloom today, making for a pretty spectacular sight. Even on a Tuesday morning, hundreds of people were out walking along the park's promenades or picnicking under the flowers in the good weather.

The blossoms here, as with those around town, would likely remain at their best viewing state for the next several days, but the rain and wind predicted for Thursday might take a heavy toll. In the evenings, the park's trees will be lit while there are still blossoms.

Hundreds of cherry trees along the Okawa River in Kema Sakuranomiya Park were at full bloom today
Plenty of picnickers out under the blossoms today
Sakura as far as the eye can see
Blossoms at full bloom
I counted more
Taking it all in
Duck, duck, TURTLE

Osaka Castle

Full Bloom

After walking the length of the Kema Sakuranomiya Park, I continued a short walk further south to my next destination for the day, Osaka Castle. The castle park grounds are home to several hundred cherry trees, and they were definitely in full bloom today here as well. The trees can be found in various places all around the castle keep, moats and walls, though perhaps the most pleasant place to enjoy the blossoms may be in the Nishinomaru Garden on the west side of the grounds. The garden has plenty of space on an open lawn for hanami picnicking and features an illumination till 21:00 each night during the season (note that the garden also has its own separate admission of 350 yen and is closed on Mondays).

The sakura around the Osaka Castle grounds were at full bloom today
Hanami by the moat
Sakura softening the otherwise imposing face of the castle keep
A sightseeing boat rounding the moat walls under the Nishinomaru Garden
Nishinomaru Garden bursting beyond its walls
Flower watchers enjoying the tranquil afternoon in the Nishinomaru Garden
Food stalls are set up strategically around the grounds, and hanami parties aren't far behind
A little takoyaki (octopus cooked into batter with vegetables), an Osaka specialty, for lunch

Osaka Expo Park

Full Bloom

My last stop today for the day was to the northern outskirts of the city to the massive Osaka Expo Park (aka Expo '70 Commemorative Park). Formerly the site of the 1970 World Exhibition, the park is now well-known as a sakura hot spot, featuring around 5000 cherry trees all over the sprawling grounds. Today, the park's Somei Yoshino trees, the most common type of sakura tree in Japan, were in glorious full bloom and drawing large crowds of excited visitors. Most of the cherry trees can be found around Higashioji Street and the East Plaza, where there are several large open lawns with ample space for picnicking and for families and friends to enjoy themselves and the flowers.

During the season the park holds special sakura festival events, which today included a large open air craft market, food stalls and live performances. Through April 10, the park also illuminates many of the trees until 21:00. Park admission is 250 yen.

It's hard to beat the atmosphere of thousands of cherry trees all in full bloom around the otherwise quiet Osaka Expo Park
Canopies of sakura everywhere
Clusters of fully-bloomed sakura; let's hope they stay this way through Thursday's forecasted rain
An open air market event going as a part of the sakura festivities (wear deodorant if you come: it gets a bit crowded)
Lots of people with families were out today, letting their kids deflagrate some energy on the park's lawns
Performers were out to entertain the crowds today
Uncountable cherry blossoms
Plenty of space for hanami parties
Tower of the Sun surrounded by blossoms; can't decide if that thing is ingenuitive is terrifying
Sakura at full bloom