Tokyo's sakura season officially kicked off on March 21, five days earlier than average, and the earliest announcement of the opening of the first blossoms (kaika) in the country in the last five years. The relatively warm temperatures over the long weekend just past, encouraged the buds to develop, and there was even a bud or two that blossomed on the 20th to the delight of cherry blossom (sakura) anticipators.
Today I visited a number of popular sakura spots in Tokyo, many of which sported budding branches which were just starting to open. With warm temperatures forecast over the weekend and following days after, I expect more of the mainstream Somei Yoshino buds to blossom in the days to come. The best viewing period is estimated to be between March 30 and April 7.
My first stop for the day was Ueno Park, an extremely popular cherry blossom viewing (hanami) spot in the city. The hanami zones have already been cordoned off, and facilities like temporary toilets and huge rubbish bins have also been installed in preparation for the festivities to come. The blossoms have just started to open but most of the trees were still sporting buds. With average temperatures forecast for the upcoming weekend, I expect the unopened buds to keep blossoming over the coming week. Next weekend should be a good time for hanami parties and I can imagine the park to be crowded with people.
My next stop for the day was Yasukuni Shrine where the city's representative tree is located. Kaika was announced two days ago on March 21 as a number of blossoms were observed then. Today, while I saw a fair number of visitors on the shrine grounds, most of the buds have yet to blossom. Hanami parties are allowed along the approach to Yasukuni Shrine, but note that alcohol is prohibited. The main area where the festival food stalls used to be is currently blocked off for renovation works, and I did not see any festival stalls when I was there.
From Yasukuni Shrine, I made my way to Chidorigafuchi, a section of the moat that surrounds the imperial palace. The view of the moat in combination with the blossoms at full bloom is a sight not to be missed, but unfortunately, I was still too early in the season to witness that today. The number of open blossoms could be counted on two hands when I was there today, but I expect more to open over the next week.
My last stop for the day was the ever popular Shinjuku Gyoen. The paid garden is home to many species of cherry trees including early and late blooming varieties, resulting in a long viewing period. When Sam visited Shinjuku Gyoen almost a month ago, he reported that the early blooming varieties were at their peak. Today, the same trees are past their peak and sporting green leaves. But all is not lost (it's never a loss to go to Shinjuku Gyoen!) as the mainstream Somei Yoshino trees are just starting to move into their element. Many trees I saw today had few or almost no blossoms open but with warm temperature predicted for the next few days, I expect more to blossom.