This past month, avid traveler Joseph Gillin traveled to Japan on the Glimpse of Japan tour to discover the beauty throughout the beloved destination. Visiting during the highly anticipated Cherry Blossom season, Joseph explains his testimony of beautiful sights in Japan.
- You visited Japan during the Cherry Blossom Season, how was it? Where did you find the beauty of the cherry blossoms most?
Joseph- “The “sakura” (Japanese for cherry blossom) is sacred in Japan. It has been adored by locals for centuries. During the sakura season in Japan, there is a long-standing custom of taking part in flower-viewing activities or “hanami,” such as picnicking with friends or loved ones under a cherry tree. The sakura seems to represent a Japanese attitude towards life with its sublime, transient beauty. It demonstrates how life is fragile and very short, but incredibly beautiful while it lasts.
Visiting Japan during this time was a remarkable experience. I was delighted by the beauty of the sakura and lucky to witness first-hand the tender adoration of the flower. There are cherry trees all over Japan, so if you happen to be in the country at the time of their blossoming, you will not miss them. However, due to the extreme local and international popularity of the flower, Japan becomes incredibly busy during this season. As a result, many of the best areas to see sakura (parks, temples, gardens) can become chaotic with groups of people. I did wish to have my own quiet time amongst these gorgeous flowers to truly take in their beauty and contemplate their spiritual significance within Japanese culture, but I admit this is a bit of a selfish wish. However, there is something about this flower that begs for quiet, peaceful viewing. It might be difficult to accomplish due to the crowds, but you can still find your own time to enjoy its beauty during the morning or night. I was able to engage in tranquil hanami without the presence of crowds.
My most memorable hanami experience was a midnight walk I took through Osaka Castle Park. There happened to be a full-moon that night and I was able to see sakura shimmering everywhere in the moonlight as I wandered about to discover shrines, temples, moats and castle walls. There were few people around, but every so often I did come across groups of younger Japanese people sitting on picnic blankets under cherry trees, eating, drinking and quietly merry-making with their friends. Yes, there is even a night-time custom of hanami picnicking!”
Although cherry blossom season does not run throughout the year, travelers can the unique beauty that resides in each season of Japan. It is often said that the main reason why these cherry blossoms are so spectacular is because of Japan’s harmony between their lifestyle and nature. Nature, tradition and architecture coexist within these cities.
- What was the most beautiful experience or sight you’ve encountered?
Joseph- “One of my favorite places was the small town of Magome-Juku. It was originally a “post-town”, or resting place, for travelers following the ancient road between Kyoto and Edo. I loved it because it was most certainly “restful”, as it lies amongst tranquil mountains and consists of one long, stone-paved pedestrian walkway that descends a slope lined with traditional Japanese houses, shops and inns. Cutting into the stone at both sides of this walkway are narrow drainage canals trickling with fresh water coming down from the higher mountains. The canals pool into Koi fish ponds in front of some of the houses, the walkway is adorned with lovely trees including cherry trees and you can sample delicious, homemade chestnut ice cream in town! Magome-Juku continues to be a delightful and relaxing place for every traveler.”
Japan is a destination with endless beauty. Its streets and sights are nearly poetic and has even inspired varieties of artistic pieces. Because its nearly impossible to fully illustrate its allure into words, Joseph’s testimony of Japan’s beauty is only a small capture into his recollection of what can be seen. To find Japan’s harmony between nature and culture or discover awe-inspiring beauty, check out our Glimpse of Japan tour.