Places to watch cherry blossoms

Deborah Choo
Y! Travel Journal

These pretty blooms signify the end of winter – and the beginning of spring. Their beauty is fleeting, though, so make plans to admire them in these countries before May.
   
Japan
Think cherry blossoms (sakura) and you immediately think of Japan, where many bustling cities transform into pink, cotton-spun paradises. The country has more than 100 varieties of cherry trees, with yamazakura being the most common.

On Japan's southern end at the subtropical islands of Okinawa, cherry blossoms open as early as January; while on the northern island of Hokkaido, they bloom as late as May. In most major cities in between, including Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, the cherry blossom season usually takes place in early April.

South Korea
Located behind the National Assembly in central Seoul, Yunjungno has 1,400 cherry blossom trees lining its 5.7-km path; this transforms into a snowy white tunnel in time for the Yeouido Spring Flower Festival.

Other hotspots include the Namsan Circular Road, a scenic route lined with forsythias, azaleas, and cherry blossoms at 262 meters above sea level; the Changgyeonggung Palace, one of the major royal palaces in Seoul; and the Ilsan Lake Park (also known as the “Flower Park”), which is home to about 1,800 cherry trees.

Taiwan
Indulge in a world of romance in Taiwan, where cherry blossoms are in their full glory at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. They can also be found en route from Puwu Highway to Wushe to Aowanda in central Taiwan.

Also check out the annual Sun Moon Lake and Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village Cherry Blossom Festival – which brings together large numbers of visitors for their 2,000 cherry trees – and the Alishan Cherry Blossom Festival, which is the only and largest area for Yoshino cherry trees (almost 18,000!) in Taiwan.

Paris
Paris in April is incredibly romantic. It is a time when the city is filled with cherry and apple blossoms and daffodils. You can see the beautiful pink flowers in the gardens of Notre Dame, along the Seine River, in front of Institut du Monde Arabe, then at the Jardin des Plantes. And as if that isn’t poetic enough, one tree stands in front of a quaint little bookstore called Shakespeare and Company.

Various places in the US
Japan gifted 3,000 cherry trees to the US in 1912, which still stand today. They add an explosion of life and colour around the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. The first Cherry Blossom Festival started in 1927, and more than 1.5 million people have visited to date. The festival runs from March 20 to April 14.

In San Francisco's Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, visitors can partake in Japanese cultural offerings such as taiko drumming and kendo (fencing with bamboo swords). Meanwhile in Macon, Georgia – where there are more than 300,000 Yoshino cherry trees – there will be a 10-day International Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs from March 15 to 24 this year.

Palawan, Philippines
Although the Palawan cherry is not a close relative of the cherry blossom, it resembles the latter greatly with its light pink flower petals. Called Balayong by the locals, the popular flowering trees are widespread in the city and can be seen in parks and gardens. They can also be spotted at the edge of forests. Their festival occurs between March and April.