Cherry Blossom Celebrations on Shikoku

29 Apr Cherry Blossom Celebrations on Shikoku

A party below pink petals. ©Don George

It’s cherry blossom time in Japan, that singular season when the blossoms burst into pink-petaled splendor – and the Japanese bloom splendidly too. The cherry blossoms were at their peak in Takamatsu, on the blissful, blessed island of Shikoku, when I was there last week, and the locals were celebrating with one of the Japanese traditions I most love: the ohanami, or cherry-blossom-viewing party.

Festive groups spread blue tarps under the pink boughs, carefully lined up their shoes outside the tarps, then sat and passed around lacquered, multilayered bento boxes bearing sushi, rice balls, pickled vegetables, boiled eggs wrapped in tempura-fried fish paste, salads, fried chicken, grilled fish, and much more. Next, out came huge bottles of beer and sake. The celebrants ceremoniously filled each other’s cups, lifted their hands toward the boughs, and cries of “Kanpai!” – Cheers! – filled the air.

©Don George

As I have witnessed every April I have had the good fortune to be in Japan, the tarps in Takamatsu showcased the splendid spectrum of Shikoku citizenry: silver-haired senior citizens to baseball-capped students, toddler-toting mothers to briefcase-bearing businessmen, blue-uniformed construction workers to black-suited salarywomen, all unreservedly feasting and singing, laughing and swapping tales, blossoming on their tarps as the boughs against the blue sky.

It is edifying and inspiring and a little mind-boggling to see an entire nation pause to celebrate nature in this way. Yet this happens every spring in Japan, when, for a few precious weeks, the cherry blossoms pinkly proclaim the glorious evanescence of life, with the blessing balm of their eternal blooming.


Celebrate nature and beauty in Japan with Don George this fall on the brand new GeoEx itinerary “Japan, Tip to Toe: Nature and Tradition from Hokkaido to Kyushu

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Don George
Don George is the Adventure Collection’s Web Editor in Chief. A highly respected and pioneering travel journalist for more than three decades, Don is the author of "The Way of Wanderlust: The Best Travel Writing of Don George," and of "Lonely Planet's Guide to Travel Writing." Don is currently Editor at Large for National Geographic Traveler and Special Features Editor for BBC Travel. He has also been Global Travel Editor for Lonely Planet Publications, Travel Editor at the San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle, and founder and editor of’s travel site, Wanderlust. In addition to authoring two books, Don has edited ten literary travel anthologies, including “The Kindness of Strangers,” “An Innocent Abroad," and "Better Than Fiction." He has won numerous awards for his writing and editing, and he speaks, teaches, and consults at campuses, conferences, and corporations around the world.
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