Daniel here. Reporting for JapanesePod101.com.
お花見 (おはなみ), or cherry blossom viewing is one of the more pleasant seasonal traditions in Japan. The flowers are stunningly beautiful and change the landscape much like snow can in Winter. People wait in anticipation for their arrival, and the news forecasts 満開 (まんかい • full-bloom) predictions like they do coming rainfall and rising temperatures.
In addition to their beauty, 桜 (さくら) are short-lived. Almost as soon as they bloom, wind, rain, and budding leaves conspire to force the lovely pedals off their branches. Just as quickly as they achieve their full majesty, they depart and make way for Spring.
As a side note, this phenomenon is very apropos for Japanese culture which seems to delight in short-lived beauty. This can be seen in how Japanese female singers and actresses skyrocket in popularity only to fade into obscurity in their mid-twenties and in the careers of sumo wrestlers.
My wife and I are among the masses who check the forecast to catch Sakura at its peak. Last year we went to 国立 (Kunitachi, Tokyo) where there is a street lined with Sakura trees. It was quite lovely. This year, however, we went with people from our church to the Canal Café in 飯田橋 (Iidabashi).
Canal Café is found close to Iidabashi Station on the 東西線 (Tōzai Line) and also on the 総武線(そうぶせん). You can see it while riding on the 中央線 (Chūō Line) overlooking the 神田川 (Kanda River), but the 中央線 does not stop at 飯田橋駅 (Iidabashi Station). Although 神田川 is a river, it has been reshaped by construction to where it looks like a canal, thus the name Canal Café.
The café’s entrance is from the street that parallels the river. The entrance and gate has the look and feel of a yacht club. Usually, there is no wait to get into the café, but during お花見 season, there is usually a long wait to get in. This is not because of the lack of seating available, but because you have to first purchase drinks and food before entering. For some reason, this seems to take quite a long time. It took us nearly one hour to get in.
It was worth the wait, however, as the view is quite nice. The food is adequate, but I wouldn’t recommend the café based on the food alone. So, if you don’t mind the wait, I recommend the Canal Café during お花見 and any other time of year, you should be able to get a seat right away. Even when the flowers have fallen off, the Canal Café should be a suitable way to spend a sunny afternoon in Tokyo.
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Until next time, さらば.