The largest city in the world is pink. The 2015 cherry blossom bloom is underway in Tokyo, and the city's streets and alleyways are undergoing a transformation unlike any other. Locals and visitors stop in their tracks to admire the gorgeous sakura trees that have sprung into life after a long winter's rest.
Hanami for you and me | 花見しましょう！
There’s a special word for soaking up the sakura-saturated scenery: 花見 (hanami) directly translates to “flower see," but it really means cherry blossom viewing. As full bloom reaches each region of Japan, it seems like everyone takes part. Grab a friend or loved one, pack a lunch (or just a few beers) and head to the park. You won’t be alone.
In Tokyo, whose metropolitan area is home to over 36 million people, you most definitely won’t be alone.
Cherry blossoms in Tokyo: Sakura outside Shibuya Station
Arriving in Tokyo as the bloom was underway, I was in awe as the streets of my favourite neighbourhoods took on entirely new moods. As the trees reach their florid peaks, they begin to shed their leaves in a delicate rain.
Cherry blossom viewing at night in Nakameguro | 中目黒で夜の花見
From the hectic plazas of Shibuya to the tiny alleyways of Kita-Senju, the sakura cast their spells. Stop. Stare. Take a photo. Probably take a selfie.
Adachi-ku alleyway: Hidden sakura in Tokyo
Shinjuku Gyoen and Ueno Park get rammed with flower-lovers, and avoiding crowds in Tokyo's more central public spaces is a fool's errand.
上野にて、ラ・フォル・ジュルネのためのリハーサルをしました。名曲揃い。これからまだまだ温めます。そして上野公園は満開の桜！圧倒されます！！！ pic.twitter.com/G9C6VoOu1w— 小林沙羅 sarakobayashi (@sara_kobayashi) March 31, 2015
Why not try something different, though, and enjoy nighttime hanami? Turns out that brilliant idea is shared by hundreds of thousands of people, who cram Nakameguro Station and spill out along the Meguro River. Stalls line the roadways, selling food and overpriced sparking wine with strawberries (the equivalent of eight bucks is a deal by Vancouver standards, but still).
Taxi drivers show off an uncanny mixture of patience and foolhardiness as they inch through the streets.
You'd think you'd hear more horns blaring, but no. Smiles. Chatting. Polite and orderly crowds. Selfie-sticks.
So many selfie-sticks.
It's worth braving the crowds to experience Tokyo's sakura by night. The sakura along the river seem to change color as you watch, reflecting the different types of light from streetlamps, hanging lanterns, and flash strobes.
Before long, you perfect the technique of stopping to stare at a particularly gorgeous cherry blossom tree without causing a pedestrian traffic jam.
Cherry blossoms line Meguro River
Of course, by day the Meguro River isn't too bad, either.