Japanese sakura, or "cherry blossoms" come into bloom once a year during April/March for only two weeks! It seems everyone in Japan goes crazy talking about the sakura, taking pictures, and having parties.

The famous Japanese
cherry blossoms

There are quite a few places in Japan that are famous only for their cherry trees. People flock to these towns and cities when the sakura are in bloom. Wakayama has its fair share of cherry blossoms, but the best place to see them is Wakayama Castle.

A couple takes time out for a
quite stroll through the castle

A "hanami" is a cherry blossom viewing party. Everyone I'd talked to had been to one, either in the castle or in a more exotic locale.

People come to the castle in droves

Most people have their "hanami" at lunch. Businessmen take their lunchboxes and head out with their collegues to picnic under the shade of the cherry trees.

Paper lanterns along with
Sakura line the walkways

They roll out the blue tarps everyone seems to have, and stake out their prime picnic spot. People come quite early to get a good spot, I've heard of some people who stay overnight to grab one for the next afternoon!

I've heard that there is sometimes a lot of drunkeness and karaoke at hanami, but all I saw as I strolled through the castle was small families, groups of friends and co-workers enjoying the beauty that comes for only a short time each year.

A businessman takes some time off
to share a quiet lunch with his family