Seoul in Springtime – Namsan Park

N Seoul Tower in Springtime
N Seoul Tower is 236m high and stands on top of Namsan hill which is 243m above sea level.

Japan might be the country in Asia best known for its sakura (cherry blossoms) but Korea too puts on an excellent floral display in Springtime. One of the best places in Seoul to see cherry blossom and other spring blooms is Namsan Park which we visited in mid April just as the flowers were at their peak.

Cherry Blossom Viewing in Seoul
Foreign tourists enjoying the cherry blossom at Namsan Park, Seoul

The park is conveniently located in the heart of the city and is handy for office and factory workers to stretch their legs during their lunch breaks. Actually, to get all the way to the top of the hill involves quite a long walk and we spent a couple of hours ambling along in the cool crisp air – such a pleasant change from our normal humid weather in Malaysia.

Traditional Korean architecture in Namsan Park
Traditional Korean architecture in Namsan Park

Some office workers were enjoying picnics under the falling cherry tree petals.

Office cherry blossom viewing party in Seoul
Office cherry blossom viewing party in Seoul

From the top of Namsan hill, also called Mount Mongmyeok, there was a fine view over the city.

View of Seoul from Namsan Park
View of Seoul from Namsan Park

In addition to foreign tourists, there were a lot of locals at the peak, including this party of Korean schoolboys.

School trip to Namsan Park, Seoul
School trip to Namsan Park

The craze of ‘love padlocks’ appears to have taken hold in Korea. In case you are not familiar, this fad is where sweethearts lock a padlock to an immovable fixture like a bridge and then throw away the key to symbolise their unbreakable bond. The padlocks are usually inscribed with the couple’s names or initials. Great business for padlock vendors!

Love padlocks attached to railings at Seoul Tower
Colourful love padlocks attached to railings at Seoul Tower

Not wishing to buy a padlock I spent my money instead on a very tasty micro-brewed craft beer which was easily the best tipple I had during our trip to Korea.

Platinum Craft Beer in Seoul
Platinum Craft Beer in Seoul

If you like Japanese-style hanami (cherry blossom viewing) but don’t like the crowds in Japan I would definitely recommend Korea as an alternative next year.

N Seoul Tower

Old Japan – Traditions, Festivals & Rituals–April

Cherry Blossom Season

Flower viewing (hanami) is a national tradition in Japan and the cherry blossom season, being the king of flowers, is the most famous of all celebrations.

This hand-tinted vintage postcard is not very clear but judging by the pink trees this must have been a typical family outing during the sakura matsuri or cherry blossom festival around 90 years ago. .

Not much has changed until today. Families, groups of friends or workmates still like to spread a mat under the blossoming trees and enjoy sumptuous picnics and copious amounts of beer and sake. Some might feel inspired by the beauty of nature to compose a haiku poem or, more likely these days, belt out a rousing chorus of ‘My Way’ on a portable karaoke.

The cherry tree comes into blossom for only a few days before its delicate petals fall and float away. In order not to miss this fleeting event, Japanese TV has a cherry blossom forecast (like a weather forecast) showing where in the nation trees will be blossoming on any particular day. The season usually starts in March in Okinawa (the far south and west), sweeping northwards over Honshu during April and does not reach the far north (Hokkaido) until May.

It is a joyous time of year. The only difficulty is finding a tree which does not already have a party going on underneath it.