Tokyo guzzler April 2016, part 1 – Sakura season!

Sakura season – a Japanese marketer’s dream! It seems like only yesterday when the shops were full with Christmas products (an event that isn’t even widely celebrated, in the western sense at least, in Japan and is in fact a normal working day); or Valentines Day chocolates, where women are obliged to shower their partners in chocolaty goodness; or White Day, where men reciprocate exactly one month after (March 14th may be special for other reasons outside of Japan).

And now, Sakura season is here. Big companies bring out special edition products to mark the occasion, and the Japanese people lap them up. It seems you could almost bring out any product at this time of year and it’ll sell in droves, as long as it’s Sakura-themed. There are even Sakura condoms – no, seriously!

Sakura products

Anyway, out and about we went to enjoy “hanami” around Tokyo:

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First stop was the controversial Yasakuni Shrine, the place where a small bomb exploded in November. Hanami, the traditional Japanese custom of flower viewing, was in full swing.

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The blossom only lasts a couple of weeks. The weather forecast is carefully studied and hanami parties beneath the sakura are planned. Events, such as the one above where outdoor theatre is performed, are commonplace. Selfie sticks are optional.

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The Imperial Palace gardens are one of the more spectacular places to view the blossom. Queues to get onto the water were predictably huge. “No!” was the barked answer to the question Maz was poised to pose.

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As I mentioned, hanami parties under the sakura are a big deal here. To reserve the best spots – much like the Germans with their beach towel antics – companies send out one or two junior employees in the morning armed with huge tarp sheets. They place these sheets in the best spots under the sakura, and then proceed to sit there all day, making sure no one takes their spot. They may be there from 8am through until clocking off time (typically late in Japan!), when the party starts. According to Japan Today news, as of 6th April, 104 people have been taken to hospital for acute alcohol intoxication at these parties. Lightweights!

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I was somewhat sceptical about the blossom before seeing it, but it really it quite a sight.

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Over to Toyko Midtown we headed. Another big destination for hanami.The lights at dusk were beautiful.

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The practice of hanami in Japan dates back centuries. Tourists flock here to view the sakura each year. It’s without doubt one of the best times of year to visit Japan.

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A fancy restaurant at Midtown, fully booked weeks before. Check the Japanese salarymen posing for photos on the pavement below. “Hai, chizu.”

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Even kawaii cats can enjoy and appreciate hanami too.

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Hanami at night is called yozakura – literally night blossom. Paper lanterns help to light up the sakura and provide light, allowing for Japanese people to get drunk without necessarily falling over one another.

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The Meguro river is a huge hanami hotspot. Thousands of people wander each side. Food and drink stalls sell sakura-themed food. It really is amazing. And it’s not rip off central either.

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If Carlsberg did hanami hotspots…

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Shinjuku Goen, another hub of sakura-themed activity at this time of year.

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There are loads of different types of sakura. This is one of them close up. As to which it is, I have no idea, sorry.

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People pose for photos under the blossom. You see all sorts of photo shoots going on. Selfies galore. There must literally be millions of sakura photos taken each year.

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Nearing the end of our first hanami adventure.

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And there we are. The season is coming to an end. In fact as I write this, it’s bucketing down outside. Blossom will wash away and life, as we know it, will return to normal. UNTIL NEXT YEAR……mwahahahaha!

 

 

 

 

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