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In Search of Cherry Blossoms in Seoul

April 14, 2010

April 14, 2010 — The spring is absolutely my favorite time of year — and not just the whole spring, but the very beginning of spring when the cherry blossoms are blooming in Asia. I guess, to be honest, living in Japan through the Cherry Blossom season changed me. I was wooed and romanced by the transformation of the entire country during this time of year when the world turns pink and fluffy for just a few short weeks. When we moved to Korea, I hoped that I could find a sense of that same wonder. After all, we’re just two hours by plan from Japan. But last year, the Sakura trees bloomed and faded so quickly that I barely had time to notice them before they were gone. This year, we vowed to go to Japan for spring to participate in O’Hanami again (Cherry Blossom Viewing) and the festivals that go with it. In Japan, during the Cherry Blossom season, department stores decorate with beautiful displays that incorporate the flower blossoms. Grocery stores offer special sakura-themed foods like sakura sugar, sakura mochi balls made of rice flower, or sakura ice cream. It is common to add petals from the sakura blossoms to each of these special seasonal foods which are only available at that time of year. Everywhere you go advertisements and promotions celebrate the blooming trees all around, and people’s attitudes are transformed by the beauty of the season. The Japanese seem happier and more festive at this time of year when their world becomes pink and rosy. It’s a similar transformation to the one that happens in America during Christmas time. The celebration is in the air.

So when our travel plans fell through, I set out to find the best Cherry Blossoms in Korea — although I kept my search to areas near my house in Seoul so that did limit things a bit. Still, I was hopeful and determined. I feel elated at the fact that there are several Cherry Blossom trees around the grounds of my apartment. In fact, there’s one tree that blooms just outside my kitchen window and since we’re on the 3rd floor, the top of the tree is nearly within arms length of my window. If I lean out just a bit, I can even smell the aroma of the blossoms. To say that this beautiful view delights me would actually be an understatement. It enraptures me beyond words and I secretly feel that I have my very own cherry blossom tree that was put there just for my own personal enjoyment.

Finding the perfect flower-viewing set up turned out to be more a quest in futility than anything else. I was looking for that perfect spot to lay down a blanket, eat an Asian picnic lunch with gimbap or onigiri and write Haiku under the fragrant blossoms. My first trip was out to Yeoido Park where the Cherry Blossom Festival is held each year. While the park was nice and offered beautiful grounds, a traditional Korean pavilion, a playground for the kids and some pretty walking paths, there were no Cherry Blossom trees in the park at all. The only trees lined the busy, busy road and during my visit in early April, the flowers weren’t quite in full bloom. I had heard that the festival was supposed to be cancelled due to the horrible sinking of a South Korean Naval ship, but I later discovered that the festival did go forward. Still, the walking path along the sidewalks didn’t allow for lounging around with a blanket in the busy walkway.

Here are some photos from the Yeoido Park area. Click the link for more info about the park.

Fresh green leaves sprout from this interesting-looking tree in Yeoido Park.

A traditional Korean Pavilion

The first section of Yeoido Park is the Traditional Korean Forest section.

The sign shows the various paths available to visitors.

This nice little playground was great for the kids and gave them some time to play and me time to sit with a can of hot tea from the convenience store right next to the playground.

The Sakura Trees were not quite in full bloom and the busy road way made walking along the sidewalk feel very hectic and dangerous. We were constantly worried one of the kids would step off the curb and cars were hurrying along.

We parked in the parking lot at Hangang Park along the river and walked through this underpass to cross the street and get to the park. The kids loved this part!

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