Early spring in Japan spells ‘sakura,’ or cherry blossom season, when the entire country is awash in the lacy, pale pink blooms on millions of cherry trees lining rivers, avenues, mountainsides and park walks. A culture obsessed with seasonality values perhaps cherry blossom season the most, and this may be the best time to immerse yourself in Japanese traditions.
Sakura season has been celebrated for centuries in Japan, and the ancient ritual of 'hanami,' (literally meaning flower-viewing) parties and picnics still take place today – although with some modern twists that include portable karaoke machines. Organized by friends, schools, colleagues and communities to celebrate the breathtaking beauty of the delicate flower buds that bloom in clouds of pink all over the country, hanami parties take place under the delicate blossoms.
Delicate fruit tree blossoms are among the first blooms following winter, and traditionally heralded new life and new beginnings. The season was also symbolic of the ephemeral nature of life, as cherry blossoms bloom for only a short period before simply being blown away by the spring breezes.
Sakura season is a must-see natural and cultural phenomenon, and a number of hotels in Japan make it easy for visitors to the Land of the Rising Sun to feel part of the celebrations. Here are a few examples of hotels in the Marriott Bonvoy family of hotel chains making the most of this short and beloved season in major cities on Japan’s Honshu (main) island this year.
Guests staying at The Tokyo EDITION, Toranomon can explore picturesque Shiba Park, where about 200 sakura trees blossom every spring. During cherry blossom season this year, this boutique luxury hotel, with 206 rooms offering breathtaking glimpses of the Tokyo skyline, is presenting a Sakura Package featuring an exclusive, welcome cherry blossom sweet and an Aromatized Sakura Martini beautifully designed with sakura flowers, served at the hotel’s Lobby Bar.
The Westin Tokyo is located near the banks of the Meguro River, which flows through Tokyo and is lined by about 800 sakura trees. It is one of the best spots in Tokyo to view the sakura blossoms. Guests can dine on Sakura French Toast at The Lounge, or taste a Sakura and Cranberry Butter Sandwich at The Westin Deli, or head outdoors for a hanami picnic under the trees. Back in the hotel, sakura-inspired cocktail and mocktail selections await guests at The Bar and The Compass Rose.
South of Tokyo in Yokohama, Sakura-dori or 'Cherry Blossom Avenue', about five to ten minutes' walk from The Westin Yokohama, is one of the city's most famous hanami spots with over a hundred sakura trees lining the street. The hotel is offering a seasonal Sakura Afternoon Tea as well as sakura-themed dinner courses at its signature Japanese restaurant, Kissui-sen. A Sakura Bento Box lunch is also available for guests who wish to explore the city and plan their own hanami picnics, in a perfect, private celebration of the season.
The entrance of W Osaka, Japan's first W hotel, is inspired by the beauty of the gorgeous sakura trees in Osaka, Japan. This spring, the hotel is presenting pink sakura-themed cocktails at Living Room, the social hub of the hotel, where guests can sip their curated cocktails with live DJs. MYDO, the hotel's signature teppanyaki restaurant is serving multi-course 'kappo' or table d'hôte menus showcasing the finest and freshest ingredients of springtime, accompanied by blush-pink rosé wines in honor of the delicate pink cherry blossoms.
The glamorous The St. Regis Osaka is one of the city's most iconic luxury hotels, and may also be one of the most romantic places to enjoy sakura season in Osaka. The hotel is offering a Japanese 'Hanafuda' themed cocktail using a variety of strawberries at renowned The St. Regis Bar. Guests can celebrate spring with seasonal specialties such as Sakura anpan red bean paste bread, an elegant Sakura sandwich, made with buttercream sandwiched between sablé cookies at La Boulangerie.
The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto sits on the banks of the picturesque Kamo River, one of the most beautiful places in the ancient Japanese capital, where guests can take a stroll and enjoy the sight of the trees in full bloom. To celebrate the arrival of spring, the hotel is presenting two seasonal cocktails, Thousand Gold with the delicate characters of lychee, apple and sakura leaves, and Sakura Across, with a profile of brandy, cocoa, caramel and spicy chai tea complementing the delicate flavors of sakura leaves and finished with tonic water.
HOTEL THE MITSUI KYOTO, a Luxury Collection Hotel & Spa, is adjacent to the city's historic Nijo Castle grounds with its 300 sakura trees celebrated in an annual Sakura Festival featuring evening illuminations and colorful projection mappings over the castle's spectacular gate. The hotel offers fragrant afternoon teas in collaboration with Paris-based perfume brand ELLA K during Sakura season. The brand’s aromatic talents are expressed in 6 kinds of savoury treats and 7 kinds of sweet delights served to guests overlooking a courtyard garden with flowing Sakura trees.
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Top image of people enjoying 'hanami' in boats on the river with Tokyo Tower in the background: Getty
Map: Marriott Bonvoy
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