With a too good to resist sale on flights and an impulsive decision, my partner Neil and I were on our way to Japan.
We were travelling at the start of April and it was hoped that we would make it in time to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom, but as it is something that is so dependent on the weather (being too cold delays the buds from opening), our fingers were crossed tight.
Packing as much as we possibly could into our backpacks, we flew out, arriving in Narita about 8pm local time.
We went wandering the streets of Tokyo wide-eyed; an eccentric mix of neon signs, sky-scrapers and literally millions of people.
Nestled among the buildings are a number of smaller parks with a few cherry blossoms in full bloom, dogs playing and people just wandering, appreciating the beauty.
Seeing the few cherry blossoms was satisfying and I remember thinking I would be happy if that was all I saw.
Oh, how I had misunderstood the scale of the cherry blossom bloom in Japan!
We moved onto Shinjuku Gyoen, I finally understood the scale of the cherry blossom bloom and it was nothing short of something magical.
Flower-viewing or Hanami parties were set up everywhere; people were eating, drinking and enjoying themselves in the company of the pink, white and red flowers.
When the slightest wind blew, it was as if it were snowing. The buds are so delicate and weightless.
We took hundreds and hundreds of photos and I couldn’t help but notice the sense of happiness and joy that the bloom brings out in people.
Despite there being so many people, Shinjuku Gyoen park is massive (it is 58 hectares) and it was fairly easy to lose all sense of direction, but to us it didn’t matter.
We then travelled down to Kyoto, 500km west of Tokyo but only 2 and a half hours by bullet train. Kyoto has a lot more parks, shrines, castles and more cherry blossoms. The weather was a lot cooler than Tokyo, but the amount of walking we did certainly kept us warm!
I had begun to refer to the cherry blossoms as marshmallows or puffy white and pink clouds.
That was, until I saw them under lights at night.
Nijo castle in Kyoto had a special light show during the cherry blossom festival and for me was one of the most magical experiences of the whole trip.
Carefully positioned lights under the trees gave a whole new dimension to the flowers. Rather than being nestled amongst and complementing the green shrubbery, they projected against the night sky.
I decided that they looked like popcorn kernels rather than marshmallows as you could see the individual petals on the flower and the yellow of the middle.
I took one last lingering glance as we left through the castle gates. I was amazed to have experienced such beauty, but sad that I had to leave.
Until next time…