BY ANGELA KAWANO
Hanami (花見), literally meaning ‘flower viewing’, is the centuries-old Japanese tradition of celebrating and viewing flowering cherry and plum trees. The origin of hanami is said to go as far back as the Heian Period (794-1185), where art and poetry about the beauty of cherry blossoms were enjoyed by the aristocrats. The significance of cherry blossoms are that they only stay in bloom for about two weeks, so they are known to represent the impermanence of beauty, ‘nothing lasts forever.’
In modern Japan, much of the country becomes absorbed with hanami, which often involves having a picnic under a cherry tree with family, friends, or co-workers to view the beautiful springtime cherry blossoms while enjoying drinks and food like onigiri, sandwiches, makizushi (rolled sushi), and dashimaki tamago (Japanese rolled omelette). Seasonal foods are also popular and may include dango, cherry blossom-themed sweets, and chirashizushi (scattered sushi).
Japanese news outlets join in the hanami frenzy, providing regular forecasts for optimal cherry blossom viewing across the country. This helps people plan the best time to coordinate their hanami event, with cherry trees blooming as early as March in the far south of Okinawa, and as late as May in the far northern reaches of Hokkaido.
In the Pacific Northwest, cherry blossoms bloom from late March to mid-May. Unfortunately we don’t have a convenient forecast system that closely tracks the peak of blooming, but during the springtime there are many great places around Seattle to enjoy cherry blossoms.
Whether you want to pack a lunch and have your own hanami this season or just want to view the flowers, here are a few top locations in Seattle for your cherry blossom viewing!
University of Washington “the Quad”
Location: UW Campus
Time: All Day
Easily the most popular and famous site for cherry blossom viewing in Seattle is the Quad at the University of Washington. The cherry trees there are yoshino cherry blossoms, which are quite larger than the typical cherry tree, making them an incredible site when they’re in full bloom. Luckily there’s an official Twitter account that keeps track of the blooming every year in order to know the best time to visit. The place is known to get crowded during peak season so be sure to plan accordingly.
Azalea Way at Washington Park Arboretum
Location: 2300 Arboretum Drive E, Seattle, WA 98112
Time: Hours: Dusk to dawn
Washington Park Arboretum has 230 acres of parkland to explore. Azalea Way is where there are cherry blossom trees as well as many other flowering plants to see.
Connected to the Arboretum is the Seattle Japanese Garden, which also has cherry blossoms in the spring. Note that for this garden there is a small entry fee and picnics are actually not allowed so the trees there are for viewing only!
Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival
Location: Seattle Center Armory, 305 Harrison Street, Seattle, WA 98109
Time: April 26 - 28, 2019
The cherry blossom trees at the Seattle Center were gifted by the Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Miki in 1976. And you can enjoy their beauty during the Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival at the Seattle Center, which is a large annual event celebrating Japanese and Japanese-American culture. If you’ve haven’t heard of the Cherry Blossom Festival before, the free three-day event holds a variety of activities like taiko drumming performance, hands-on arts and crafts activities, martial arts, and games!
Location: 5900 Lake Washington Blvd. S, Seattle, WA 98118
Time: 6 AM - 10 PM
Some of the cherry blossoms in Seward Park have a remarkable connection to Japan — they were planted in 1929 by the Japanese Prime Minister Reijirō Wakatsuki! This was done with the help of Japanese Seattleite, Genji Mihara. The park was the original location for the Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival before its size grew and was relocated to the Seattle Center 1978.
Location: 3801 Beacon Ave. S, Seattle, WA 98108
Time: 4 AM - 11:30 PM
Twenty-five cherry trees were planted in Jefferson Park by the Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival Committee. Jefferson park is the sixth largest park in Seattle, with a wading pool, skatepark, baseball field, golf course, and more!
Green Lake Park
Location: 7201 E Green Lake Dr. N, Seattle, WA 98115
Time: 24 hours
At Green Lake Park you can find cherry trees lined along the 2.8-mile lakeside path. As well as picnicking, it makes a lovely place to walk or jog.
Kobe Terrace Park
Location: 650 S Main St., Seattle, WA 98104
Time: 6 AM - 10 PM
The cherry trees and stone lantern at Kobe Terrace were gifts from Seattle’s sister-city Kobe, Japan. Kobe Terrace Park features winding pathways across from the freeway, and is home to the Danny Woo Community Garden.
For more cherry blossom viewing tips, this article is a great resource for the top places to view cherry blossoms in Seattle!
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