From late March to mid-April, Japan’s world-renowned sakura (cherry blossoms) attract visitors from across the globe as their delicate pink flowers blanket the country in pastel splendour.
Claudio Saita, Deputy CEO and Executive Director in Australia for Tokio Marine, underwriters for World2Cover travel insurance, said the country’s popularity is consistently increasing amongst Aussie travellers and cherry blossom season is one of the best times to visit.
“In 2015, Australian visitor numbers were the highest ever recorded from the Japanese National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) with a 24.3 per cent increase year-on-year. The Japanese ski season was the most popular time to visit, but tourism noticeably spiked in March and April as Aussies travelled to enjoy hanami, or cherry blossom viewing,” Mr Saita said.
“According to the latest forecast by the Japan Weather Association, the 2016 season will see the Tokyo and Kyoto’s blooms open several days earlier than average, on 23 and 26 March respectively, while the blossoms in Kyushu are predicted to lag behind their traditional opening dates from 25 to 31 March. Visitors should be sure to follow reports closely to ensure they make the most of the short but sweet season.”
To help Aussies heading to Japan in the coming months and those considering a trip for next year, the team at World2Cover has some insider tips:
- The season if very fleeting, with trees reaching mankai (full bloom) roughly one week after kaika (when the first blossoms open). Whether you’re planning a trip or are already there, check japan-guide.com for the latest info on predicted blooming times to ensure you don’t miss it! The exact date for each region differs from year to year according to the weather and is closely monitored by media as the full ‘cherry blossom front’ moves slowly northward.
- During hanami season, Japan goes cherry blossom mad. Not only are there blossom-themed events and festivals up and down the country, but even products in the supermarkets reflect the fleeting season. Be sure to try the limited edition sakura-flavoured foods and drinks during your stay – a true cultural treat.
- Read up on the history to tap into the true cultural significance of this annual event. In ancient Japan, the cherry blossom announced rice-planting season and was used to forecast the year’s harvest. It has also been celebrated as a metaphor for life itself and is believed to have begun during the Nara Period (710-794).
- Be sure to get out and about to enjoy hanami at different times of day. Alongside blue skies you can view the sakura at dusk, set against hanging street lanterns creating a glowing pink canopy.
- Consider sticking around after blooming. After around a week, the sakura will fall from the trees creating stunning petal storms – a great photo opp for budding photographers.
- If you are looking to travel outside of peak season yet still enjoy the blooms, consider visiting Okinawa in the south, where the cherry blossoms open as early as January, or try the northern island of Hokkaido where they bloom as late as May.
Mr Saita said it’s important to be fully protected when travelling internationally and all World2Cover policies will be underwritten by the Australian arm of leading global insurer, Tokio Marine, Japan’s largest non-life insurance company.
“Our comprehensive cover is available to all Australian travellers, delivering peace of mind, a simple claims process and superior customer service which reflects the company’s philosophy of Omotenashi, the spirit of Japanese hospitality,” he said.