This year's cherry blossom season began in Tokyo six weeks ago and since then location after location has seen the blossoms come and go, with now even areas in the very north of the mainland seeing their seasons winding down. It's a slightly different story for the northern island of Hokkaido which, typically seeing cherry blossoms later than other parts of the country, is currently enjoying the best viewing period in many of its locations. In this last leg of my Hokkaido cherry blossom investigation, and indeed our final cherry blossom report of the season, today I headed to Sapporo.
Hokkaido's largest city, Sapporo has long since been the commercial and cultural center of the island boasting a number of attractions that draw tourists in the thousands. Despite the annual Snow Festival existing as the most renowned of the city's events, Sapporo has a lot to offer in spring as well, being home to a number of sakura hot spots. Today I visited two of these and found them to generally make for good viewing, despite the petals on some cherry trees having already started to fall.
I started off my day today at the famous Odori Park, in the heart of the city. Stretching around a kilometer and a half west from the iconic TV Tower, the park serves as the main site of the Snow Festival every February, and also makes for an attractive place to see cherry blossoms that typically come into bloom here around early to mid-May. There are no groves here to speak of, the park instead offering a scattered selection of cherry trees of different varieties including Somei Yoshino (Japan's most commonly found variety of cherry tree) and Hokkaido's own Ezo Yamazakura.
This morning the glorious weather was matched by the general state of the cherry blossoms around the park. The few Somei Yoshino were generally in full bloom whilst the Ezo Yamazakura looked to be a day or two further along and beginning to lose petals. Despite this, the trees still looked great and made the park a petal blizzard zone, as loose petals were swept around the area by the morning's gentle breezes. Strong winds are predicted over the weekend of the caliber that could be devastating to the blossoms, and if these predictions prove correct, I estimate that the best viewing period in the park will last up until Saturday.
My second and final stop of the day was at Maruyama Park, a five minute walk from Maruyama Koen Station on the city's Tozai subway line. The park's dominant feature come spring time are its Ezo Yamazakura cherry trees that number upwards of 1,500 and typically attract droves of visitors, especially with the approach to Hokkaido Shrine, which is lined with dozens of them.
I'm happy to report that as with Odori Park, the Ezo Yamazakura that dominate this location this morning appeared around a day past their optimum state but looked good despite losing petals. As mentioned before, strong winds are predicted come the weekend, but the good news is that the weather is tipped to remain beautiful until then.
The park's official statement regarding the cherry blossoms is in line with the weather forecast, with an estimation that the blossoms will remain in their optimum viewing state in the park for another one to two days. I agree with this in that, should the predicted weather prevail, I expect many of the cherry trees to have exceeded their peak from Saturday. Barbecues are permitted in certain areas of the park from 9:00 until 20:00 ending this Saturday, May 6th. With this in mind, the next couple of days are an ideal time to visit the park and partake in some hanami fun!