If your Japan travel plans fell through due to coronavirus, or you’re here but stuck inside, these gorgeous videos are the next best hanami option.

With the sakura just starting to bloom, ordinarily this would be the time people across Japan would be planning hanami (cherry blossom-viewing) parties. Spring 2020 is a unique situation, though, and not just because the flowers are expected to bloom earlier than usual.

As a countermeasure to the continuing coronavirus outbreak, authorities are discouraging large public gatherings, with public parks in Tokyo asking that citizens show self-restraint and refrain from having sakura parties on their grounds, especially ones that involve eating and drinking (i.e. basically every hanami party ever held). It’s a sad turn of events, as cherry blossom parties are pretty much universally loved in Japan, representing both a link to the country’s cultural heritage and a much-needed excuse for the infamously industrious populace to actually take a break and stop to smell the roses/look at the sakura.

But even as many people’s hanami plans are on hold or outright cancelled, there is still a way to enjoy the beauty of Japan’s favorite flower. Japanese website Weather News, which also covers the “sakura front” as the cherry blossoms begin blooming in Japan’s southwest and make their way northeast, has posted more than 50 “Hanami VR” videos, which allow for 360-degree viewing of the cherry blossoms in full bloom at a selection of Japan’s most popular sakura spots!

Hirosaki Castle in Aomori Prefecture, a perennial favorite for sakura fans (to change the angle, click and drag on the video while it’s playing).

The series of videos from previous years’ sakura seasons includes Tokyo hot spots like the Megurogawa River, one of the capital’s premier yozakura (nighttime cherry blossom) destinations…

…and Chidorigafuchi (a.k.a. the moat of the Imperial Palace)…

…or, if you’d rather do your virtual hanami in Japan’s former capital, you can drop by Kyoto’s riverside Arashiyama neighborhood…

…or the city’s beautiful Keage Incline, a decommissioned railway that used to carry boats and is now a strolling path.

Of course, some would say the ideal cherry blossom-viewing activity isn’t a hanami party, but a hanami date. Once again, Weather News is happy to oblige, with its Tokyo Date Hanami VR sub-series.

Showa Park

▼ Back to Chidorigafuchi for a rowboat ride for two, a quintessential spring date plan for romantic Tokyoites.

Or, if your preferred hanami style is one of soothing solitude, there’s even a video of a single sakura tree in an undisclosed location accompanied by the sound of rolling thunder overhead.

With cherry blossoms still not at full bloom in most of Japan, there’s still a chance of the situation improving enough for people to head out and see the flowers in person. But for those staying at home, as well as those living in other countries whose Japan travel plans have fallen through, the next best thing is to grab an armful of drinks and snacks and enjoy the full series, whose links can be found here.

Source: Weather News via IT Media
Top image: YouTube/ウェザーニュース
Insert images: YouTube/ウェザーニュース (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
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