Something is different in Japan. The air is warmer, and filled with… pink! Pink everywhere in different shades as first the ume (plum), and then the sakura (cherry) and finally the momo (peach) erupt from dead looking twigs. Suddenly, winter is over.
While last year WNJ showcased prime sakura spots in Wakayama (Kimiidera and Negoroji), Hikone deserves its place in the Best Sakura in Japan Contender list. During the day, visitors can circumnavigate the 400 year old castle on foot, by bike, by boat (500 yen per trip) or even by rickshaw, enjoying the view from all sides, or take the more relaxed option of a snooze under the trees.
From dusk until 9:20pm, April 1st to 20th, sections of the castle and the trees lining the walls are lit up. The day-time couple and young family groups are replaced with groups of friends or coworkers – increasingly merry and intoxicated. Generally sober though equally friendly are hoards of photographers from across Japan, all come to enjoy the yozakura – night sakura.
Some suggest the reason sakura are so beloved in Japan, is because they are a signal to farmers that planting can begin. For many not in the agricultural industry however, they are just as potent a sign that the cold days are over and it isn’t long until more flowers are springing up, often from beneath a layer of fallen pink petals.
And like those flowers, people are coming back to life, coming out of their houses, using up 32 gigabyte cards taking photos, getting drunk under the trees.