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Sakura night fever

Japan’s cherry blossom season is coming to an end. It’s been a fun two weeks, and it always feels quick. Even Christmas in Japan lasts longer than the sakura petals do.

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This was my first full sakura season, and all I can say about it is… FINALLY, the madness is dying down.

Most of my hanami – flower viewing parties – have been lovely. Fresh spring days filled with picnics and pink flowering trees. People near enough pressing their noses up to the bark to get close-ups of branches.

I’ve enjoyed most of it. Mainly the drinking in parks and the food stalls that popped up everywhere. Once you’ve seen one sakura tree, you’ve seen hundreds of others. But it’s been fun. Mostly.

Then there was the sakura walk at the Osaka Mint. A lovely stroll along the grounds, taking in the many – some rarer – cherry blossom trees planted there. I could only go after work, when it was dark. Great, I thought. A perfect chance to try some yozakura – that’s ‘night cherry blossoms’.

When I spotted the first signs leading towards the Mint from the subway platform, I knew there’d be trouble.

Emerging onto the bridge made it clear. There were hundreds of people surging ahead of me towards the trees.

I got this snapshot as we shuffled along. Even though this is off the other side of the bridge. I repeat, this is not the Osaka Mint. The other side was for people heading back only. At this time, it was disconcertingly empty.

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Under the north end of the bridge, a random group of people in sombreros was playing ‘Mucho Mambo’. Yeah, that one. Not exactly in keeping with the theme…

We crossed the road and set off down the half-kilometre of tree-lined path. All thousand-odd of us, together.

I debated whether to grab a beer first. A ‘no food or drink’ signs on the way in made that decision for me. Don’t they know cherry blossoms are best appreciated while tipsy? And I think I’d rather not have been sober during the crush that awaited.

It was crazy. Combine the slow walkers, the selfie stick users, and everyone chilling out at food stalls, and I reckon that crowd hit 20,000, easy. Every few metres, officials were telling us to constantly keep moving. It’s hard to take photos while walking – you may know this all too well.

So this is the only decent picture I have, and it’s rubbish:

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That night felt like the perfect time to tell myself sakura season’s done until next year. It can’t get any better, and it sure can’t get much worse.