15 Things to Do During Cherry Blossoms on Your Solo Trip to Japan
Japan is a land of mystery unto itself. As a solo female traveller, I think it is one of the reasons what draws thousands of visitors to the country every year. It is a place where the old meets the new and lives in peaceful harmony. From the traditional bylanes of Kyoto to a glimpse into the future at places like teamLab Borderless, Japan encompasses everything in between.
But if you ask me, what makes Japan special is how it has retained its beauty and identity while adapting to everything new. One of the best examples of it is the cherry blossom season or sakura in Japan. Every season in Japan has its own charm, but nothing’s like the blooming of cherry blossoms. The whole country turns pink and white, and the already picturesque country turns a shade more beautiful. The peak sakura season is only for a couple of weeks a year, and people from around the world flock to Japan for a tradition called hanami or watching cherry blossoms bloom.
While the tradition of hanami dates back to the Nara era, present-day Japan has intertwined tradition with new activities to make the experience more relatable. So, if you are dreaming about experiencing hanami in Japan but are unaware of how to do it, fret not. I will list you 15 things you can do to enjoy sakura while in Japan.
P.S. To make sure you do not miss the peak cherry blossom season in Japan, as it lasts only for a few days. Remember to check the cherry blossom forecast before you book your tickets for Japan.
1. Picnic in a park
This is probably the best way to enjoy the cherry blossom in Japan. The country boasts of beautiful parks and gardens, which look straight out of a fairytale when covered in pink cherry blossom flowers. And so it would be a shame not to enjoy nature’s best gifts while on your solo female trip to Japan during spring. At different parks around the country, you will find people flocking in with families and friends. But sometimes you are your best company, so pack a bag and set off with plenty of snacks, your favourite book, and some good music. Sit under a cherry blossom tree in the lap of nature.
2. Get a guided tour
While Japan is filled with places you can do hanami, as a solo female tourist, you might always not know about every nook and corner of the city. So to get an opportunity to enjoy some of the best places in a city, book a guided tour that is available in every city of Japan. Make sure you get your reservations done well in advance because it gets filled up pretty quickly.
3. Go for walks
If you visit Japan, you will find that you have to be on your foot a lot. While that might be tiring at times, if you are waking with cherry blossoms all around you in the city, it is actually quite refreshing. If you are in Kyoto, you cannot miss walking along the beautiful stretch of Philosopher’s Path. The road, which is around 2 km, has branches from cherry blossom trees drooping on the street, making it quite spectacular. The pink flowers that fall on the river water that runs alongside the path make it turn pink.
4. Book a sakura cruise
When the whole turns a shade of pink, the best place you can enjoy the sakura is always the water bodies in the city. So when in Tokyo, book the cherry blossom cruise where you can see around 1000 cherry blossom trees along the Sumida River bed. These traditional cruises called Yakatabune also serve traditional Japanese food and drinks. So enjoy the view while sipping on your sake.
5. Hanami after dark
While hanami is usually done during the day when the bright pink colours can be seen, a night cruise is a great idea as well. Along with sakura, the brightly lit city is a treat to the eyes. Seeing sakura during the night is called Yozakura and is also an extremely popular Japanese tradition. Hanami in the evenings looks even more magical when the sakura trees are lit up with fairy lights, and the lights from the city provide the best background. But be sure to carry something warm because it can get a little chilly in the evening.
6. Go traditional
To enjoy a tradition like a hanami, it would be a great idea to deck up in traditional Japanese clothes to get a proper taste of yesteryears. If you are in Kyoto or you go to Asakusa in Tokyo, you won’t try walking about in traditional kimonos without appreciating the cherry blossom trees. While for a beginner, walking in a kimono is not the most comfortable, but it will definitely be worth it.
7. Picture perfect
There are many like me who loves to admire a good photograph but fail when we try our hand at it. But a backdrop like cherry blossom is the perfect excuse to learn how to click that amazing picture. Do a bit of research and buy a good camera before you board your flight to Japan and click away! You can also watch videos on YouTube by famous photographers to learn the tricks of the trade. And then click away and make all your friends back home jealous. Just kidding! But really it’s a perfect souvenir that you can carry back home for yourself.
8. Buy some sakura-inspired cosmetics
Sakura is not just a tradition in Japan. It is a great business idea as well. And we cannot help but give in. If you travel to Japan during this time and not buy sakura-themed products to carry back home, are you even doing your vacation right? You can carry a piece of Japan and the sweet smell of cherry blossoms from a lot of cosmetic shops in Japan. You can choose from body wash, lotion, lip balm, sheet mask, lipstick, and hair care products.
As a solo female traveller anywhere, the best way to capture the beauty of a place is to go hiking. In the same way, if you are in Japan during cherry blossom season, there are hiking trails that will let you spend some time flexing those glute muscles and also admire the beautiful sakura trees along the way. One of the best places to enjoy a sakura trail is Mount Yoshinoyama. This off-the-beaten road trail can be reached from both Tokyo and Osaka by train. The 8km road, winding up the mountain, houses over 3000 trees, making it one of the most picturesque trails you have ever hiked.
10. Attend a cherry blossom festival
During the cherry blossom season in Japan, the number of Sakura Matsuri or sakura festivals held across Japan is a must-visit. Different cities hold their festivals on different days depending on the bloom, and so as a visitor, it becomes difficult to book tickets for one. My advice would be to just go with the flow, and instead of trying to attend a single festival, be open to attending whatever comes your way. The sakura festivals are held day and night with plenty of activities and definitely street food and drink. There are also traditional and modern musicians who perform most evenings to bring a new dimension to the festival.
11. Art and sakura
Japan is famous for its futuristic art, and no trip to Tokyo is complete without spending an afternoon at teamLab Borderless. And during the sakura season, they bring a cherry blossom-themed installation. They have spring edition art like Forest of Resonating Lamps – One Stroke, Cherry Blossoms, which features cherry blossom trees created through computers. That’s not all. TeamLab Planets that you will find in Toyosu in Tokyo, has an installation where you can sit and imagine yourself being engulfed in a cherry blossom flower.
12. Stay among sakura
Japan boasts of places of accommodation that are unique to the country, and during the sakura season, you can book yourself a hotel or ryokan to enjoy the spring to the fullest. If you are in Kyoto, book the Hoshinoya Kyoto, which is a riverside resort from where you can see sakura blooms from your private terrace. All the rooms have the provision to see sakura as well. How cool is that? But make sure to book your room early because these are in high demand!
13. Strawberry picking
Another activity that is extremely popular in Japan during the sakura season is picking strawberries. Any type of berry picking is a great activity for solo trips. It helps you relax, and it is also quite fun. But imagine picking strawberries against the backdrop of sakura. Now isn’t that something? Most places in Japan open their greenhouse doors to the common public for ichigo gari, which is strawberry picking, and the best part is that you can eat as many strawberries as you can but within a time limit. You also get a cup of sweetened milk to dip your strawberries in, if that’s how you like to have them.
Just two hours from Tokyo lies Tochigi prefecture, which is Japan’s largest supplier of strawberries. You can check out Yoshimura Strawberry Park in Mashiko here, which is a family-run strawberry farm where you can get your queries answered in English as well.
14. The romantic train
The one thing we all look forward to when travelling to Japan is boarding the famed and hyped bullet train or shinkansen. And while it lives up to the hype alright, there are other trains that might not give us the thrill of the speed of a bullet train, but the scenery outside the window is equally beautiful.
One such train ride you must take when you are in Japan is the Sagano scenic railway. This is a vintage train which is a 25-minute ride, and it takes one of the most beautiful and scenic routes in the city of Kyoto. It is run by Sagano Scenic Railway in the area near Saga-Arashiyama in Kyoto.
The train doesn’t operate in the winter, but during spring and autumn, this is the best way to appreciate nature in all its glory. During spring, the route this train takes turns pink because of the cherry blossom trees all around, and in autumn, the trees turn bright red and yellow.
To take the experience up a notch, try taking the Hozugawa river cruise on the way back to Arashimiyama in an Edo-styled boat that is hand-oared. Though it takes almost 2 hours, watching the cherry blossom trees while boating in water filled with sakura petals, you will not be complaining.
The seats on the vintage train sell out real fast, so remember to book it in advance.
15. Themed food and drink
No tradition around the world is complete without delving into its food, and in a country with such a unique cuisine like Japan, these words hold truth. Japan attracts the most number of visitors during the sakura season, and if you are a foodie like me, the varied options will make you very happy. At a time when the country turns a shade of pink, its food follows suit.
This tricolor sweet dumpling that comes on a stick is usually made with sweetened rice flour and is chewy. Pick a couple while you stroll along the road partaking in hanami.
There is hardly anyone who doesn’t love a good cookie, and during the sakura season, you get special cookies that have a salt pickled cherry blossom flower adorning them. Isn’t that delicious?
This is one of the most sought-after desserts in Japan during spring. The gluttonous rice with red bean paste inside is perfect when you crave something sweet while you are enjoying your picnic under the cherry blossom trees.
Another Japanese staple, onigiri, is found almost everywhere in the country. From fine dining spots right down to convenience stores, this piece of deliciousness is hard to miss. For your hanami picnics, these pink coloured triangular ball of rice wrapped in nori or seaweed is an absolute must!
While cherry blossom-inspired products are found everywhere, I would advise you to head over to Starbucks to check out their creativity. Place your order keeping in mind the festive spirit, and you can also buy their sakura collection of merchandise, which can be another souvenir to take home.
So for those of you who were wondering what to do during the cherry blossom season in Japan, you now have many options to choose from. No matter what you choose to do, always remember to just relax and have fun.
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.