Cherry blossom, or sakura as it’s known in Japan, is a big part of Japanese culture. Every spring, after their winter slumber, ornamental cherry blossom trees respond to the lengthening daylight hours with the most spectacular spring symphony of colour. The pretty pink or white flowers majestically blossom for a short stint just once a year, but the Japanese are experts in appreciating them.
In Japan, at peak of cherry blossom viewing season millions of people from across the globe flock to blossoming hot spots across the country. In the lead up to cherry blossom season, a national floral frenzy builds.
Daily news bulletins provide much anticipated updates on the stage of the blooming cherry blossom trees. This is so the nation can make the most of this time and carefully plan trips that align with when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.
When the cherry blossom flowers are at their prime, the Japanese come together to celebrate, by visiting parks and throwing lavish picnics under the trees in a custom known as ‘hanami.’ Restaurants and shops even make special blossom-themed food to celebrate this unique time of year.
My Experience of Cherry Blossom In Japan
When I was a student in Japan I spent six months working as an intern in a beautiful town called Kanazawa, in Ishikawa prefecture. The town is home to a renowned park called Kenroku-en, a destination location during cherry blossom season. People from all over come to appreciate the spectacular views there and I was very fortunate to experience them. I can still recall this magical place and hope to go back one day.
I began to look forward to celebrating cherry blossom season annually. Even when I returned to Ireland every spring I planned a trip to appreciate the cherry blossom trees in Ireland. Now permanently back in Ireland, I’m very lucky that our home is nearby the Japanese Garden in the Irish National Stud – one of the best places in the country to experience cherry blossom.
When Is Cherry Blossom Season In Ireland
Cherry blossom season in Ireland usually comes into full swing between April and May. Though sakura sometimes blooms as early as March when temperatures are mild.
The flowers only bloom for a relatively short time. In cool, calm, and dry conditions they hang around for up to a week or two weeks, before wilting. Though in hot, rainy, windy, and stormy weather they might disappear in number of days. So make the most of them while you can.
How Best To Enjoy Cherry Blossom Season
Cherry blossom season is brief so its best to appreciate every flush of flowers wherever and whenever you see them. However, like they do in Japan, you can of course seek out cherry blossom and visit specific locations known for them. When the news lands that cherry blossom season is at its peak, pack your camera and a picnic, and head out on a cherry blossom hunt.
Luckily, this outdoor activity is quite pandemic-friendly. If you’re lucky enough to live close to one of the best locations to see cherry blossom (as outlined below), be sure to make the most of it. If not, earmark the locations for now and schedule in a future visit. The best thing about cherry blossom season is that it comes about every year.
The Best Places In Ireland To Spot Cherry Blossom
Only on returning to Ireland after years in Japan did I fully appreciate the cherry blossom that we have on our own shores too. All across the country, I now spot cherry blossom trees in the most unexpected places; from housing estates to modest local parks. Come spring time in Ireland, the trees bring a flush of pretty pastel flowers and a dose of magic to ordinary streets, parks and neighbourhoods.
There are particular locations, however, where you can really experience sakura in all its glory. Read on for 6 of the best places in Ireland to experience cherry blossom.
1. Irish National Stud’s Japanese Gardens, Co. Kildare
My family are among the 120,000 visitors who visit the Irish National Stud’s Japanese Gardens each year. Created in the early 1900s, the gardens are a little piece of Japan in Ireland. During cherry blossom season, wandering through the gardens’ intricate paths and picnicking under the trees is as a close you’ll get to experiencing hanami without boarding a plane to Japan!
2. Powerscourt Japanese Garden, Co. Wicklow
Powerscourt Japanese Gardens are an exquisite example of Japanese garden design, complete with stone lanterns, a Pagoda, striking Japanese bridges, and, of course, cherry blossom trees. Its located at a lower tier of the Powerscourt gardens, so as you descend down the quaint steps you can admire the blossom in full bloom from a height. In fact, some say the best view of the trees are from Lord Londonderry’s stone seat, perched high above the Japanese Garden itself.
3. Herbert Park, Dublin
Herbert Park is one of Dublin’s smaller parks but it has the highest populations of cherry blossom trees in the capital. Its pathways are flanked with rows of cherry trees, and when in full flower they form a complete tunnel of blossom. Located a little outside the city centre, the park is a peaceful place to appreciate the beauty of the blossoms and honour the Japanese custom of hanami.
4. Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Garden, Co. Waterford
A lesser known gem for spotting cherry blossoms are the Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens, outside Tramore, County Waterford. These authentic gardens pay homage to Patrick Lafcadio Hearn (Koizumi Yakumo), a literary star in Japan who grew up in Ireland. Naturally, cherry blossom trees take pride of place among the selection of Japanese plants. Make the most of a spring day in the sunny south east with a visit here.
5. Phoenix Park, Dublin
Dublin’s Phoenix Park is one of the largest enclosed parks in a European city. It’s also one of the best places in Ireland to see cherry blossom. Every year Farmleigh Estate, located within the park, hosts the Experience Japan Festival when the cherry trees are in full bloom. A host of fun family activities are scheduled to celebrate the season.
6. Trinity College/St Stephen’s Green, Dublin
Couple a visit to these two nearby Dublin City landmarks for a beautiful cherry blossom experience. In Trinity College, cherry blossom trees line the walkway next to the cricket pitch. Just a short stroll away, in Saint Stephen’s Green much of the walkways are planted with the blossoming beauties. The park is equipped with plenty of benches for you to enjoy your lunch in the shade of a voluptuous cherry blossom tree.
Birr Castle Gardens have a beautiful Cherry Blossom Walk worthy of inclusion here.