James Wong on why the Japanese love cherry blossom

As Springwatch decamps to Japan, Wong explains how the Japanese celebrate sakura season


The Japanese adore cherry blossom like we do roses — but they only want the season to last two weeks,” says the botanist who is a guest presenter on Friday’s Springwatch special. “It’s the fleeting nature of the flower that makes it more thrilling to them and ties in with the Buddhist view of nothing being permanent in life and to enjoy things in the moment.


“There’s a daily forecast that shows where the blossom will hit as the season travels from south to north over a six-week period — the sakura season.

The Springwatch team zoom in on a honeybee 

“The Japanese celebrate the sakura by eating all kinds of cherry blossom-related things. The blossom is edible, as are the leaves, which have an almond-like, bitter edge to them. You can buy cherry blossom KitKats, drink cherry blossom tea, eat cherry blossom cake.

“After 1,000 years of breeding, cherry blossom is now so highly bred that cherry trees can’t produce viable fruit any more. The trees are surgically enhanced, too, so when you see images of beautiful mountainsides such as Mount Yoshino, which has 30,000 trees covered in cherry blossom, every one of those has been highly bred and grafted and hand planted to create that incredible effect. ”

Four blossom hotspots in the UK

Brogdale Collection, Kent: See one of the world’s largest collections of fruit trees, which includes more than 350 flowering cherry varieties.

Batsford Arboretum, Gloucestershire: Nearly 3,000 trees and plants can be seen here, including the National Collection of Japanese flowering cherries.

Doddington Hall, Lincolnshire: The 80m-long cherry walk is expected to be in full bloom for two weeks from Sunday 9 April.

Alnwick Gardens, Northumberland: The 326 Tai Haku trees, one of the largest collections in the world, should be at their best during the Easter holidays.

Springwatch in Japan: Cherry Blossom Time is on Friday 21 April on BBC2 at 8.30pm 

Radio Times Travel holidays

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  • Opportunity to stay the night in a ‘Ryokan’, a traditional Japanese Inn
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