Everyone's been worried about the storms that swept through much of Japan yesterday, as the blossoms around the cities that reached full bloom a week ago now are at the point where they are vulnerable to being knocked down by the wind and rain. (Note that this doesn't necessarily apply to the spots that only recently reached full bloom. The petals in those areas should still be young and strong enough to withstand some abuse.) So today I headed down to Tokyo to see what the damage was. Long story short, it wasn't nearly as bad as I had imagined and the season will live on for a few more days.
Shinjuku Gyoen:Past Peak
My first stop this morning was Shinjuku Gyoen. When Joe visited on April 4th the cherry trees were pretty much at the peak of the peak. This put them in some danger considering yesterday's rain, but I'm happy to report that the damage was relatively light with the majority of the blossoms surviving the storm. The petals were starting to fall pretty easily, however, so I would expect moderate winds to really start knocking them down over the next few days.
Shinjuku Gyoen also has a large variety of later blooming cherry trees planted around the grounds, most of which were in the early stages of blooming today. Of particular note were the Ichiyo cherry trees which were around 30-50% open. These should continue to improve over the coming week, and they will give latecomers a second chance to see some blossoms.
Showa Kinen Koen:Full Bloom
My next stop of the day was at Showa Kinen Koen, a huge city park located near Tachikawa Station, which is a bit outside of central Tokyo about 30 minutes west of Shinjuku on the JR Chuo Line. The sprawling park was built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the reign of Emperor Showa, and nearly 1500 cherry trees are planted around its gardens, sports fields, barbeque pits, boating pond, and walking and cycling paths. Showa Kinen Koen's cherry trees tend to bloom a few days later than those around central Tokyo, making it a nice place to see some cherry blossoms if you are a few days late.
The majority of the trees are found around the Sakura no En part of the park near the center of the grounds. The blossoms here reached full bloom just a few days ago, and were strong enough to have escaped yesterday's rain mostly unscathed. When I was checking them out this morning, there were relatively few petals on the ground. There was some damage from the rain, but the blossoms were still holding on tight to their branches. They were some trees here and there starting to lose petals, but for the most part it looked to still be at full bloom. Nice weather over the weekend will make the park a hotspot for cherry trees over the next few days.
Showa Kinen Koen is open from 9:30 to 17:00 (until 18:00 on weekends and national holidays) and entry costs 410 yen. The park is very large and rental bicycles (410 yen for three hours) are available at most of the park entrances for getting around.
Ueno Park:Past Peak
My last stop of the day was Ueno Park which was once again crowded as usual. Not quite as busy as at the peak, but there were still quite a lot of people around enjoying the falling blossoms. Unsurprisingly, Ueno Park had the most advanced blossoms of the day since its cherry trees tends to be slightly ahead of those around the rest of Tokyo. The petals were falling in droves at any hint of wind, showering those below with petal storms (hanafubuki) to the delight of the visitors. The trees still had enough blossoms to be pleasant, but it will probably only last for another day or two. Don't forget that Ueno Park will be lit up in the evenings through April 10th. The light up even lasts from 17:00 to 20:00.