“There is no stranger under the Cherry Tree.”
It is a well known saying in Japan, and it is easy to say why, as you sit under those pink blossoms, enjoying a picnic, while throwing off the shackles of Winter. It is a time to talk, to share and to enjoy a simple, yet wonderful sign from Nature.
It is not just Japan that is well known for its cherry trees. Vancouver has some 40,000 Cherry Trees lining its friendly streets, and puts on a full line up of arts events and traditional Japanese festivities to mark the arrival of Spring. The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival in 2020 runs from 2ndApril to 26thApril. It is obviously extremely popular with both locals and tourists, so if this is something you are thinking about, it’s time to stop thinking and start booking!
But why would you want to go?
Cherry blossom is not just pink and pretty. It has served as an inspiration for poets, artists, musicians and indeed everyone for centuries. The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is an opportunity not just to enjoy the beginning of Spring but to use the arts to better understand each other through the shared experience of enjoying the blossoms.
And Vancouver is an amazing city, vibrant and full of life, or indeed Life, a celebration of the best that Nature can offer us. Spring is a perfect time to visit, but it is an all year round destination with amazing outdoor adventures in Winter and Summer.
Getting to Vancouver
There are direct flights from London Heathrow on flights lasting just over 9 and a half hours, and of course a host of indirect flights. Direct flights to Tokyo are just over 11 and a half hours, and several hundred pounds more expensive, so we immediately have two very good reasons for choosing Vancouver over Tokyo.
One of the best ways to experience the blossom is to hire a bike through one of the many agencies, including Mobi, a public bike share system. Maps of the 2,000 or so viewing spots are readily available. You will of course be posting your photos up on your social media, but there is also a public photography competition, so why not try your hand and enter your best shot? While you are out and about, you will probably want to stop and eat, so why not enjoy a picnic al fresco with specially prepared picnic boxes.
For those who like to combine activities, there is a Craft Beer Walking Tour which takes in many of the Blossom viewing sites. Vancouver has a very healthy food and drink scene, an essential part of any trip to the City, so this is a great way to merge two experiences together.
The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off with a Spring Lights Illumination in the Queen Elizabeth Park over two nights. The lights illuminate the Cherry Trees, and there are dance, music and digital art events telling the story of the City and its multicultural heritage. The Festival really helps to engage you with the City and to fall in love with everything it has to offer, so for new visitors it is definitely worth planning your trip to include the beginning.
As we are “turning Japanese”, you will definitely want to take in the Sakura Night, an Asian fusion themed gastronomic delight hosted by the City’s top chefs. Entrance is not cheap, with early bird tickets selling for $150, of which $80 is donated to local charities. This pink tie event is described as an evening of canapes, cocktails and conversation, reminding you that there are never strangers under the Cherry Tree.
April 19 and 20 are the Sakura Days Japan Festival, another “must attend” event if you want you want to learn more about Japanese culture. The event features traditional tea ceremonies, haiku readings, sake sampling and allows you to try your hand at origami, calligraphy, sushi making and a host of other activities.
The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is an amazing way to celebrate the beginning of Spring as well as a vibrant city, and to share the experience with both strangers and family.