May 28, 2017

Night-time Cherry Blossom Viewing

Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) is usually done in the day, but some places in Japan are actually more suited for night-time viewing. Also known as Yozakura (夜桜), appreciating the flowers up close, taking selfies and picnicking may be challenging, but thanks to the lighting, the place may be transformed into a magical land that you would not have imagined during the day!

Hirosaki Park (弘前公園), Takada Park (高田公園) and Ueno Park (上野恩賜公園) are known as the top 3 Yozakura spots in Japan (日本三大夜桜). Personally, I find that Hirosaki is good for both day and night-time viewing, Takada is better for night-time viewing and Ueno better for daytime viewing.

Takada Park in Niigata prefecture (新潟県) is indeed an impressive Yozakura spot. Although it is already gorgeous in the day, there is little difference when compared to other castle parks. However, it seems to transform into a different place altogether at night, due to the special illuminations. The reflection of the 'green' castle keep and sakura trees in the inner moat is captivating. The rows of Sakura trees (some 4000 of them) in the compound are also lit up by paper lanterns. It is possible to pay to enter the castle keep, though the best photos would still be from the outside, especially near the Gokuraku bridge (極楽橋).

Takada Cherry Blossom Festival is usually held in the first half of April, and 10th April would be a good gauge of when the Sakura there reaches full bloom. There are food stalls, events and boating activities during this time.

Another Yozakura spot that left me with deep impression was Nijo Castle (二条城) in Kyoto prefecture (京都府). It is specially opened to the public at night during the cherry blossom season. The castle grounds accommodate nearly 400 Sakura trees with 50 different varieties. Some of the cherry blossoms resemble fluffy balls of cotton wool!

Seiryu-en (garden), with Sakura reflections in the pond, gives off a mystical vibe due to the changing colors of the illumination.

Nijo Castle's special light-up is held from late-March to mid-April, 6-9pm. For visitors in Kansai during the Hanami season, this place is not to be missed!

Although Ueno Park is known as one of the top 3 Yozakura spots in Japan, I was not particularly impressed when I visited it in Spring 2016, even though the flowers had reached full bloom. Somehow, the rows of cherry blossoms looked more impressive during the day.

For Yozakura in Tokyo, I find Rikugien (六義園) the most outstanding. The huge Shidarezakura (weeping cherry trees) under special illuminations are spectacular!

For those who would like to dine and drink at the same time, Naka-Meguro (中目黒) would be an ideal spot. There are many food and drink stalls/restaurants in the area, making the Yozakura experience much more fun and lively~

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