Japan’s famous cherry blossom (sakura) season was only experienced virtually by Australians this year giving us good reason to start dreaming about a visit for 2021.
The season, usually one of the most popular travel times for Australians, generally starts in the south in Okinawa and runs up to Hokkaido in the north, which means Oita – located on the tropical southwestern island of Kyushu – is well positioned to capture the early blossoms of the season, generally starting from late March into April and lasting for around one week.
For Australian travellers, starting their Japanese itinerary in Oita to catch the first blooms of cherry blossom will result in fewer crowds and potentially cheaper airfares.
In Oita city, there are several places to experience sakura at its best. The ruins of the Funai Castle built in the 16th century are around fifteen minutes’ walk from the station and provide a glimpse into Oita’s history. Around one hour from there, the Oka Castle ruins are officially listed as one of Japan’s top 100 cherry blossom viewing sites.
Oita’s coastal city of Beppu is worth a visit any time of the year to experience the onsen – or hot springs – but plan a visit for spring and you’ll get to experience cherry blossom, a bamboo forest and more than 650 pine trees in Beppu Park, 10 minutes’ walk from the main train station.
Lesser known, but also spectacular, are the Kawazu Zakura which bloom from the end of February through to early March. Visitors can admire these in Tsukumi city in Oita where the deep pink colour of the blossoms contrasts with the vivid blues of the Inland Sea.
Viewing the annual cherry blossom season (hanami) is an extremely important time of the year culturally in Japan, with families and friends gathering for hanami events. The sakura festival is celebrated with a range of food. People often bring hanami bento to eat under the trees. In Oita, this ranges from the contemporary – bento boxes can be purchased at convenience stores through to home-made local specialties such as Karaage – fried chicken bites – and Toriten – tender chicken tempura. Traditionally three colour dango dumplings made from sweetened rice flour have also been included in the bento boxes as a sweet treat.
While this year’s blossom will bloom and fall to hugely diminished crowds, it’s an experience to add to next year’s travel ‘wish list’.
To follow the progress of the cherry blossom (sakura), take a look at japan-guide.com/sakura and for more information on Oita, go to www.discover-oita.com/en/whats-on/
SOURCE: Discover Oita