Since I moved to LA, I am surprised that many of my friends and colleagues are interested in Japan and wish to visit there.
One of the frequently asked question from them is; When is the best season to visit Japan?
My answer is spring. It is not too hot, not too cold, and if you are lucky you can see Sakura, the cherry blossom.
Let me tell you three interesting facts you may not know about Sakura in Japan.
Let me start with the 1st one today.
1.They have Sakura forecast.
As Japanese people are eager to see sakura, they have something called sakura forecast in which the day of sakura blossoming is forecasted. Because of the difference in temperature, sakura starts to bloom from south then goes north.
This forecast starts as early as in January, about two month before the sakura season, then the forecast is updated frequently.
Below is the example of such forecast as of February 21st, 2019.
The lines are called Sakura-zensen, meaning “cherry blossom front”.
The date put beside the front is when sakura is forecasted to bloom. Basically sakura in the same area starts blooming at the almost same timing.
As Japan is stretching from north to south, it takes more than 1 month for sakura -zensen to travel across the country.
People carefully check the forecast and will plan when to go out to see sakura or have a part under sakura trees.
Or people not having such plan are still interested in the forecast because they think sakura is telling us the arrival of spring.
If you would like to visit Japan in spring to see sakura, I highly recommend this forecast. As sakura season changes from year to year depending on the weather in winter.
There are sakura forecast website in English. Below is the example.
2. Sakura’s history is rather short.
Actually there are different kinds of sakura trees but the most popular one is called “somei-yoshino”.
When you hear Japanese people mention sakura, most likely they mean “somei-yoshino”
The history of some somei-yoshino is rather short. It was invented as a result of plant breeding in the middle or latter half of Edo period. Then it spread around across Japan in let’s say 300 years.
Because of its origin, somei-yoshino cannot reproduce by itself (i.e. grow from its seeds).
You need to reproduce it artificially by cuttage or graftage. Effectively all the some-yoshino are “clone” and that is exactly why they bloom at the same time if planted in the same environment.
By the way, Japanese people have enjoyed sakura for more 1000 years at least, but different kinds of sakura, basically wild species.
3. There are a lot of J-POP songs titled Sakura.
In Japan, spring is the season of farewell as the school year ends in March and new year starts from April. Same for the fiscal year of the government and many companies. This period overlaps with sakura season. So sakura is regarded as symbol of farewell.
That’s whey there are a lot of songs titled Sakura of which theme is farewell.
Here are my favorite songs. All are named SAKURA and very popular for Karaoke.
SAKURA by Ikimono Gakari (note: this is not original song)
SAKURA by Naotaro Moriyama (this is original)
SAKURA by Kobukuro (not original)