“What a strange thing/to be alive/under cherry blossoms,” wrote the 18th-century Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa. When the thousands of cherry trees in Japan burst into bloom each spring, it can feel like much of the country is covered in a pink glow. Blossom viewing parties, or hanami, create a festive atmosphere, but the blossoms also have a deeper significance in Japanese culture. They symbolize both new beginnings and also the fleeting nature of beauty, which should be enjoyed before it passes. One of the best places to see the display in Tokyo is along the canal that surrounds the Imperial Palace, just a block from the Imperial Hotel. When the blossoms have begun to fall onto the Chidori-ga-fuchi moat, you can rent a boat and row through them. Afterwards return to the Imperial Hotel and the elegant Toraya tearoom to enjoy seasonal sweets, as well as Toraya's representative yokan jellies and monaka bean-jam sweets.
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