Hanami at the Castle
Spring is in the air and it’s a wonderful time to be in Japan. Although the winter had been very mild and timid, it’s still enjoyable to welcome the warmer weather. This season however does not only herald a rise in the temperature, it also announces the arrival of new blooms, this one in particular is the plum blossom.
If you happen to be in Osaka, an ideal place to admire the season’s arrivals is at Osaka Jo. The castle used to be the home of Toyotomi Hideyoshi before being acquired by the Tokugawa Shogun and is easily accessible from the Tanimachi-4 Chome stop on the Chuo subway line. There are ample signs in the station to guide you to the park when you arrive, or you can simply follow the crowds as most will be venturing to the same destination. Once there, it is a very short but also very enjoyable walk to the orchard.
Depending however, on your direction of travel within the castle grounds, you might be able to gain a partial birds-eye view of the trees in all of their splendor, but rest assured, that is merely the tip of the iceberg. When you journey down into the grove to enjoy the blooms that decorate the leaf-less branches up close, you will easily see why so many people look forward to their arrival each year. As you stroll along the path, you can enjoy the beautiful red, pink and white of the blooms. The trees are not very tall, so for the photo enthusiasts, you can capture some magnificent close up pictures of the blossoms as they drink in the sunlight.
The orchard itself is beautifully arrayed in artistic fashion with small stones set into the earth girding a path through the area. Similar settings can also be seen around the trees adding to the majesty of the grounds.
Of course people are not the only moving things to be seen among the blossoms; you can also enjoy the musical twitter of sparrows or the loving coos of doves as they forage in among the boughs and grass alike. All of this lends to the peaceful atmosphere and further enjoyment of being out of doors.
If you wish, you can stop and enjoy some refreshments at the kiosk located close by. I recommend indulging yourself with a cup of Amazake. It is made with water, ginger and koji—which is a plant extract used for fermentation in the production of soy sauce—and is absolutely delicious. In fact, if you are like me, you might be tempted to partake in more than one cup.
You also have the option of planning ahead and packing a lunch to enjoy in the grove. This type of tradition is referred to as “Hanami”. The original translation of the word is “flower viewing” but most people have come to associate the term with having a picnic under the blossoms. Fear not for you will not be alone should you chose this option. There will be many other groups feasting on the weather, the sight of the blooms overhead and the freedom to sit in splendor with good friends and good food.
Regardless of whether you choose to sit and eat, or stroll and admire, you will not regret time spent amongst the blossoms.