Catch it quick because it’s only going to last another week. One strong wind or a heavy rain can end it in an afternoon.
Once a year Japan consummates its obsession over cherry blossoms. There have been months of cherry blossom blooming forecasts and updates on the news. People make itineraries to squeeze in as much cherry blossom viewing as possible. College kids and seniors arrive early in the morning at parks to stake out and defend a small picnic area under the blooms. Some of the larger popular parks are crammed with a patchwork of plastic blue tarps filled with revelers drinking beer and eating festival food. The paths are lined with food stalls and if you’re lucky, there may be some dancing and entertainment.
It’s a fantastic time. Which is the reason T and I decided to spend our Spring vacation in and around Tokyo this year, instead of traipsing around some tropical locale as usual.
A good tour would balance the famous sites with lesser known places. Ueno Park probably has Tokyo’s best mass display. For the finest night time viewing, walk around the Imperial Palace. It has trees illuminated for a dramatic viewing. Yoyogi Park has the biggest picnic party atmosphere. For more space, you can visit the stately and well-kept Shinjukukyoen. But my favorite spot is the Meguro River in Nakameguro, accessible on the Hibiya and Toyoko lines.
Like most rivers in large cities, the Meguro River is nothing more than a concrete-lined stream, but it’s lined with cherry trees with branches that droop down towards the water. The surface of the stream is lightly salted with pink delicate petals. The lanterns illuminate the petals on the trees at night for a romantic cozy ambiance.
Nakameguro is an artsy neighborhood peopled with bohemian designers and artists. The streets along the Meguro River are crammed with inviting cafes, chic restaurants, over-priced salons, and funky boutiques. It has a nice used furniture store full of designer cast-offs and a cool bookstore with lots of odd English books. And whenever I visit I make a point of getting a latte at the Café Madeleine. We happen to run into some friends there.
Run out of a the back of a Citroen, the coffees are hand crafted by the humble barista (who has never been to France) in the cramped back seat. I recommend the Madeleine latte, which has an intriguing blend of spices. It takes about 7 minutes to make one. And it comes with a chocolate.
Then continue strolling along the river, contemplating how fleeting and delicate life is.