Tokyo: Pretty in Pink

If there’s one thing people agree on around the world it’s that there’s nothing so welcome as the coming of spring. Whether it’s a country farmer or a city financier, warmer days, blue skies, and the hope of a new season puts smiles on faces.

And nowhere is the departure of the cold and arrival of the warmth more obvious than Japan at cherry-blossom time.

In late March and early April city park pathways have a delicate pink canopy for throngs of weekend strollers, and impossibly green lawns are covered with a patchwork of blue-tarp picnic parties. These celebrations are an important part of life in Japan, and they have a name: hanami, which means “flower viewing.”

Tokyo’s Benton Do octagonal temple with its wall of pink blooms was a magnet for hungry revelers drawn by the smokey grills and delicious smells drifting from the vendors’ tents.

And visitors to the shrine hung small pink plaques conveying prayers, wishes, and appeals for favors to the spirits, while swan paddle boats churned the lake in a profusion of pink.

Fruit trees blooming in springtime are a breath of fresh air no matter where they grow, but it’s hard to imagine another spring flower generating quite the enthusiasm and joy of cherry blossom time in Japan. You heard it here: Pink is Back in!

Happy Trails, James & Terri

P.S. After leaving Hawaii, Japan has been the next stop on our RTW. We started in Tokyo – so cool! And next on to Kyoto. Looking forward to seeing some of Old Japan.


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

42 thoughts

    1. Darlene, as strange as it may sound, we didn’t really plan on being here for the cherry blossoms. When we were planning the trip we were more concerned about not being in a Muslim country for Ramadan or being in a big Christian area for Easter. So being here now was pretty much serendipity. What a lucky break for us! James

      1. We (hubby – also geophysicist retired) – have enjoyed both spring and autumn seasons there .. both fabulous seasons showing a different side to Japan. Hard to say which season we enjoyed the most – maybe autumn.

      2. I can appreciate both for their unique aspects, but I must admit a preference for spring. I’m a cold weather wimp, and I’m always happier coming out of cold weather rather than going in. Another retired geophysicist huh? ~James

      3. If you are still in Kyoto I suggest you visit the Shirakawa community arcade and surrounding suburb. See my story about it. We revisited in November 2022, and stayed in the arcade at Oki’s Inn. Hubby also did a knife sharpening course there. Interesting and ancient area of Kyoto to explore – largely unknown to tourists. Tell Kyoko that I sent you if you do go. The community walks are cheap and highly recommended. The money raised aid efforts to support the local suburb community

  1. Lucky break indeed, James and Teri! Bathed in pink makes Tokyo look beautiful as your first stop outside the US on your RTW trip. Can’t wait to see what intrigues you both about Kyoto. Steven and I will be in Taiwan for 2 weeks in early September, followed by a month in Japan and then a week in Molokai. The fall colors in Japan are also supposed to be fantastic but it looks like we’ll be a couple of weeks early. Continued safe and fun travels – I look forward to learning where your adventure takes you and how long it will be.

    1. Annie as we expected, Tokyo was big, big and crazy crowded. Of course, there is lots to see there, but honestly, Kyoto is much more to our liking. The Gion Geisha district was fabulous, and there are Buddhist/Shinto Temples just about every block. Our hotel is close to the subway so we can get around easily. The bullet train from Tokyo-Kyoto has been on my bucket list for years and it was fun. Your trip to this area sounds super and with a month you’ll have lots of time to explore much of the island. In a few days we’re off to Busan, S. Korea. ~James

    1. Didn’t know that … interesting. We were in a local market today here in Kyoto and saw in the fresh veggie department a tiny, shrink-wrapped tray of quarter-size flowers that looked like dandelion flowers. I suspect they were for eating, but not sure of the dish. Any ideas? ~James

      1. Could they be chrysanthemums? They use those and a lot of other edible flowers and leaves to add flavour to dishes or to enhance them. Exploring Japanese cookery methods has opened a new world to me

      2. I believe you’re right. We visited the same market today and I had a closer look and they do seem to be chrysanthemums, small and perfect. I’ll have to check out a recipe. Interestingly, regular cut flowers seem unusually expensive here. ~James

  2. How lovely to be visiting when the cherry blossoms are in bloom! Love how sometimes things just work in ones favour when travelling!

    1. Lynn, for years we’ve been spring and fall travelers. We’re prepared to put up with less than ideal weather for fewer crowds and lower prices. So what this normally means is that we get spring flowers or autumn leaves. Luckily, the timing was perfect for cherry blossoms. ~James

      1. Yes, the shoulder season tends to be our preferred time of travel as well. Way less people and better pricing is a win win in our books!

    1. Maggie, as you can imagine, cherry trees are all over city parks and special places like temples. But you can tell they’re important to the culture because you see long rows of beautiful, blooming trees in unlikely places (like next to shipping warehouses). It really is something to see. ~James

  3. I’d written a whole paragraph before it disappeared into the Internet ether. Sigh. Anyway, now living near Washington, I can attest to everything being in bloom although friends told me it was cold, raining and crowded at the Cherry Blossom Festival. Sounds like you have had a great kick off to your round the world tour. Great photos showing off spring in Tokyo. The pink plaques remind me of the all the signs left at the Burning Man temple. Looking forward to Kyoto, James and Terri. –Curt

    1. Curt, we lived in Eugene, OR for a while and I remember the cherry blossoms well. And in fact, come to think of it, the weather we’ve seen in Tokyo and Kyoto reminds me of Oregon this time of year.

      And if you haven’t been to Kyoto, you should add it to your list. Tokyo got hammered in WWII so most of the historic buildings there are rebuilt. Kyoto seems to have escaped much of the damage so the buildings here are original. Also, it was the capital of Japan for hundreds of years before Tokyo so there’s lots of history here. And for no other reason, the 185mph bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto was a blast. ~James

  4. Great timing. I didn’t much care for Tokyo aside from Asakusa, but might have felt differently if the trees had been in blossom. OTOH, crowds… If you are in Kyoto consider at least a day trip to Nara.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion Kathy. There’s a lot to see in Kyoto so it’s a matter of high-grading. We were on a train yesterday and there were lots of tourists heading to Nara, so we’ll check it out if timing and weather work out. ~James

  5. We just got back from Japan, a trip to see friends but well timed. It was lovely. You did a nice job capturing other things pink!

    1. Tracey it’s pretty funny. We’re always looking for a “hook” when we write a post, and we didn’t realize these photos captured so much pink until we downloaded them at the hotel. 😀

  6. Even though I was there in the spring (twice!) I was either too late or too early for the sakura. Oh well, thanks to the donation of huge numbers of cherry and plum trees from Japan some time after WWII Vancouver has it’s own sakura festivals. We’re just starting to be awash with blossom here. Sooo beautiful. Sounds like you’re having a great time there. Japan is so special.

    1. Alison, as you know the time window is pretty narrow for peak blooms. After the peak the colors drop off quickly. Moving around helps to take advantage of a moving window for blooms. There are also lots of blooms in Kyoto, but not quite as concentrated as Tokyo. Take care and have a fun Easter. ~James

  7. Such perfect timing! I read one of your replies to comments where you said the reason you chose Japan was because you wanted to avoid a Muslim-majority place where people fast during Ramadan or a Christian-majority place where the locals celebrate Easter. A few months ago I was actually planning to go to New Zealand in early April, but then discovered that many restaurants and shops would be closed during Easter holiday — I went to Vietnam instead. I never really thought of this before. Enjoy the rest of your stay in Japan!

    1. Bama, as you know, there are lots of interesting events during both of these holidays. But as travelers, the uncertainty of what’s open and when as well as changed/or reduced transport schedules makes it tough to predict and plan a schedule. In addition, there are the issues of more people traveling, fewer hotel rooms, etc.

      We’re on our way to Busan tomorrow and after that to Vietnam. We haven’t been so we’re excited. We’ll have a look at your blog for posts. All the best. ~James

    1. Thanks. Cherry blossom time is perfect for photographers. And FYI, for the first time in our travels we’re taking all our photos with our iPhones. It can be a bit limiting sometime, but not carrying a camera and all the accessories has been wonderful. ~James

  8. I’m so happy that you made it to Japan in time for the cherry blossoms. We have a big festival here in Toronto in High Park every year to celebrate the cherry blossom. In 1959 the Japanese donated over 2000 trees to the city. This year’s celebration is forecast to start in less than a week because of our unusually warm weather this year.

    1. The celebrations in Tokyo are the normal city park festivals, but it’s also a chance for private picnics. The interesting thing is that parks around the city seem to have different demographics with some being daytime, family friendly all the way to the other end which are long, heavy drinking sessions with the associated fun. The locals of course know where to go and when depending on what kind of party they prefer. It’s a citywide winter-is-over blowout. ~James

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