There is barely any flower that has managed to etch itself onto the national psyche in a manner similar to what the charming sakura has done in Japan. In many ways, cherry blossoms or Sakura has become the unofficial symbol of Japanese aesthetics and beauty to the rest of the world. Kavan Choksi mentions that while sakura are in bloom for just a few weeks every spring, they bring a flurry of photo-snapping and picnicking activities. Undoubtedly, Sakura is one of the top tourism magnets in Japan.
Kavan Choksi shares how sakura season contributes to the growth of tourism and businesses in Japan
A few years back, a study estimated that around 63 million people travelled to and within Japan in order to witness the view of the cherry blossoms bloom. These people spend about US$2.7 billion (301 billion yen) in the process. Over the course of just a few weeks during the start of the Spring, cherry blossom trees all over Japan burst into bloom, and paints the country in shades of white and pink. While sakura season has been a national obsession for years, today it has a global appeal as well, and has been a boon to Japan’s economy.
The government of Japan wanted to magnetize about 40 million foreign visitors by 2020, to coincide with the Olympic, up from a record of 31.2 million visitors in 2018. They would have reached this goal easily as well, but were hindered by the debilitating effect of the Covid-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, every year during springtime, the economy does turn pink in Japan. Visitors from Asia and many other parts of the world visit Japan during this time in record numbers in order to experience one of the most iconic events of the country. Tourists visiting Japan from Korea during the cherry blossom season were up to 70 percent in 2019, pre-pandemic. Almost 1.3 million Chinese also came to the country charmed by Sakura. They simply didn’t witness the cherry blossoms, but the average Chinese visitor even spent around 157,000 yen per person (US$1311) just on shopping. Kavan Choksi points out that the Japanese even have a special for this tourist spending phenomenon, “Bakugai” which means exploding sales.
The cheery blossom season in Japan ideally runs from mid-March until May 10th, and Tokyo tends to be in full bloom around April 1st. Northern cities of the nation, like Hirosaki in Aomori Prefecture witness the best blooms during the last week of April. On the other hand, Sapporo usually gets its best bloom in May. Osaka and Kyoto additionally are a week to 10 days earlier than Tokyo in most cases. One of the most vital activities of the sakura season is ‘hanami’ or ‘flower-viewing’. This traditional Japanese custom involves enjoying the exceptional beauty of cherry blossoms. Every year in Japan, the blossom forecast or cherry blossom front is announced by the Japan Meteorological Agency. These dates are carefully monitored by people planning ‘hanami’ as the cheery blossoms just last for a week or two. Hanami is the time when families and friends gather around cherry blossom trees to enjoy delightful food and drinks.