3 steps to a picturesque Sakura viewing trip in Japan

Spring cherry blossoms seen at the UNESCO world heritage site Himeji Castle, also called the white heron castle in Japan. Image: Hotels.com

Cherry blossom viewing (otherwise known as hanami) in Japan is typically in full swing come every April; even better, Tokyo visitors at this time of the year will also get to experience the Roppongi Art Night festivities.

To be held in Tokyo’s Roppongi entertainment district from the weekend of April 19 to 20, 2014, this art festival will feature some of the best of Japanese contemporary art. In 2013, the annual art night saw nearly 830,000 visitors in attendance.

With the theme of “Move Your Body” this year, visitors can expect plenty of interactive art installations along streets of Tokyo’s Roppongi district. And of course, the beautiful Sakura flowers provide the perfect picturesque setting to the arty nights.

3 steps to a picturesque Sakura viewing trip in Japan

The Yayoi Kusama display for Roppongi Art Night 2012. Image: Roppongi Art Night

While it may be too late to plan for a trip now — the Sakura viewing month of April is after all, the peak travel period in Japan — you can easily make plans for next year’s visit now.

Here, we share three steps to a picturesque April trip to Japan.

1. Time your trip right for the sakura season
Plan for a visit between late March to late April, to up your chances of seeing the cherry blossoms in full bloom. Check out this year’s sakura season forecast on official Japan National Tourism Organisation website for a good gauge.

3 steps to a picturesque Sakura viewing trip in Japan

Blooming cherry blossoms at city of Takeo, in the Saga Prefecture of Kyushu, Japan. Image: Hotels.com

2. Stay at a ryokan
Get a taste of traditional Japanese culture by staying at a ryokan, which is a traditional Japanese inn, typically replete with an onsen hot spring, tatami rooms and exquisite multi-course kaiseki meals; the latter is an exquisite dinner that is comprised of many small dishes, made with fresh seasonal ingredients.

Depending on your budget, there’s a wide variety of ryokans to choose from around the different parts of Japan. In Kyoto for instance, prices can start from as low as $44 per night for a room at the three-star Ryokan Yamazaki in Ukyo Ward of Kyoto, to $267 a night and above at the Gion Hatanaka on the Eastern Mountain of Kyoto.

3. Experience Roppongi Art Night
Leave it to the Japanese to keep aesthetics so keenly in mind for an art night; the organisers shared with journos in attendance at their recent Singapore visit that they have tried to schedule the Roppongi Art Night annually to coincide with the cherry blossom viewing season, where possible. They achieved that just last year, when the art night was scheduled in late March.

Sadly, the Sakura flowers are currently in full bloom in Tokyo, ahead of the 2014 art night; but if you time your trip right next year, a little before this event, you may just get to see the flowers in its full splendour.

Of course, the art festival itself is set to be oh-so-instagrammable. This is one festival known for its statement sculptures — during its 2009 edition for instance, a huge fire-breathing robot “breathed” fire at intervals, while singing and dancing to the amusement of many a festival-goer.

3 steps to a picturesque Sakura viewing trip in Japan

The Kenji Yanobe’s Giant Torayan robot art installation in Roppongi Art Night 2009. Image: Roppongi Art Night

Highlights this year include an art parade around Roppongi Hills, Tokyo Midtown and the National Art Centre, as well as the “One Body” project by Japanese artist Yoshinari Nishio, who has created a giant patchwork made from used clothing collected within the Roppongi area. This artist will also hold an eco-conscious workshop on how you can create art out of used clothing.

The Roppongi Art Night 2014 will be held from 10am on April 19 to 6pm on April 20, 2014 at various venues within Roppongi Hills. Visit the official Roppongi Art Night website for more information.