Hanami, or “flower viewing,” is a Japanese tradition that is thought to have begun in the Nara Period (710-794). In ancient Japan, the cherry blossom announced rice-planting season and was used as an indicator of the coming harvest. The fleeting beauty of the blossoms was seen as a metaphor for life itself, and offerings of rice wine were made to the gods for a successful harvest. Today’s hanami parties and gatherings that take place all over Japan during sakura have their origins in these traditions, and those who visit Japan during the season can enjoy the many events and festivals organized around the annual blossom. Visitors can also sample seasonal products such as sakura-flavored dumplings, street food, and even sakura beer.
The sakura season can be difficult to accurately predict, as factors such as a cold winter or heavy rainfall can dictate when the flowers will bloom, but tours are available to the Kanto region during the expected prime blossom period of March 21 to April 11, and to the Kansai region during the expected sakura season of March 24 to April 14. A tour of both regions is also available within the expected blossoming period of March 21 to April 11. Prices start at $1,399 pp for the Kanto tour, $2,199 pp for the Kansai tour, and $3,249 pp for the Classics tour that visits both regions. Super Value Tours is also offering Shibazakura tours of the region in May 2017. Known as “cherry blossoms for your feet,” the Shibazakura blossoms of northern Japan are not sakura but a type of flowering pink moss that covers the hills in a stunning pink carpet of petals. For more information, call (877) 388-9876 or visit supervaluetours.com/evaluate_index.do?fr=supusa.