In many ways, I believe I am a little Japanese because like that great nation, whenever I see a cherry blossom in flower, my soul smiles.
The art of cherry blossom viewing is taken extremely seriously in Japan and has been for centuries. The name given to it, Hanami, I am told, means simply flower viewing but is most linked with the cherry blossom. It is now officially cherry blossom season according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, with the best place to view Tokyo’s blooms – according to the Telegraph’s Japan expert – listed as Ueno Park or the more serene Shinjuku Gyoen.
Like the Japanese, I like strolling through parks full of pink and white cherry blossom, the flowers seeming to float around the tree branches in the breeze like candy floss. They however like to have an Hanami party under the trees and the most beautiful spots are often fought over – in the most civilized manner possible. There are even websites given over to the precise time that the blooms will flower in different areas of the country.
For me in London, it’s St James’s Park – the oldest of London’s Royal Parks – which is cherry blossom central. It is the prettiest of London’s parks in my view, ranging from Buckingham Palace down to Horseguards Parade and Westminster and the cherry blossom is a joy to behold. I took these images on one sunny day a couple of years back, unexpectedly overwhelmed by their beauty.
The park is surrounded by no less that three Royal palaces – the most ancient is Westminster, which has now become the Houses of Parliament, St James’s Palace and of course, the best known, Buckingham Palace. Hard to believe that once this beautiful park – a Londoner’s retreat from busy Piccadilly nearby – was a marshy water-meadow and later, a leper hospital. Henry VIII bought the land and created a deer park and built his palace and every other royal has enhanced the land. It was Charles II who opened the park up to the public but it was the Hanoverians who created its current look with John Nash redesigning it to lend it a more romantic style.
If you visit to see the cherry blossom, don’t miss out on the pelican feeding near the Swiss Cottage as the pelicans are the most curiously social and gregarious of birds. They were first introduced to St James’s Park in 1664 as a gift from the Russian Ambassador – and their descendants bask on their favourite rocks near Duck Island. They are fed fresh fish between 2:30 pm and 3:00 pm every day adjacent to the Duck Island Cottage.
St James’s Park – just a wonderful place to escape the world’s madness.
Contributor & photographer: Sue Lowry
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