Spring is also the start of some amazing festivals in Korea, one of them being the Cherry Blossom Festival in Jinhae. It’s one of the many towns in Korea that is absolutely blanketed by cherry blossoms between late March and early April. Every year visitors from all over the country flock here during the start of spring to witness this amazing sight. The festival was first held on 13 April, 1952, as a small ceremony commemorating Admiral Yi Sun-shin, a Korean naval hero who played an important role during the Imjin War. Today, it is one of the largest festivals in the country, with about 2 million visitors.
The festival takes place over 10 days so there is plenty of time to go and see it. Alternatively, you can dodge the crowds and go up before the official start. Sure, you miss out on music performances by Kpop stars, a street parade and fireworks show but, if you’re only interested in seeing the trees and taking advantage of the street food stalls (they set up early for people like me), it’s perfect. I opted for the ‘less crowds more trees’ approach and went to Jinhae the day before the grand opening celebration. I had a friend who lived there so I was lucky enough to have my own personal tour guide to take me around. The weather wasn’t the greatest, with scattered rain showers and overcast skies, but it was still worth it.
There are cherry blossom trees all over Jinhae but the key thing is to find the famous ‘Cherry Blossom Sites’ that are designated specifically for the festival. You can find a couple of maps online which I would suggest downloading beforehand so you can plan a route for the day. Some of the sites are Jangboksan Sculpture Park, Jinhae NFRDI Environment Eco-Park, Jehwangsan Park and Anmin Hill. The most popular, however, and by far the most romantic (because hey…we’re in Korea and it’s all about the love here) are Gyeonghwa Station and Yeojwacheon Stream (which was also recommended by CNN Go).
In order not to waste any time, and get to view something before the heavens opened up on us, our first (and what turned out to be our only) stop for the day was Yeojwacheon Stream. Even the walk up to the stream provided a hundred different photo opportunities of gorgeous pink and white speckled blossoms, which from a distance, resemble giant balls of candy floss (or ‘cotton candy’ to some of you). Not even the spattering of raindrops, ominous dark clouds or soggy shoes from stepping in a large puddle (in my defence, I was looking at the trees) could dampen the beauty of the surrounding scenery. I must have taken close to fifty photos, and just when I thought I had possibly seen some of the most picture perfect cherry blossoms, we turned the corner and reached Yeojwacheon Stream. Wow!
There are two reasons why the views at Yeojwacheon Stream are the most sought after in Jinhae. The first is related to why most sought after sites in Korea come into being…two words – Korean Drama! The location of the bridge on the stream is where two leading characters of a popular drama series (called ‘Romance’) first met, and ever since the episode was first aired, the bridge instantly became popular and widely known as ‘Romance Bridge’. Couples flock here in the springtime to recreate that magical moment and have their photo on the bridge. The other reason, however, is a far simpler one – the location is magical!
From above the small flowing stream, wooden decking lines a path about 1.5 kilometres long. Along both sides of the stream, cherry blossom trees are lined up next to each other forming a natural canopy over your head. Contrasting against the white and pale pink of the trees above are charming, brightly coloured, woven lanterns. In a section of the stream there are also rows of brightly coloured umbrellas suspended in the air. There is no doubt that the location really is one of the most enchanting places to see the cherry blossoms and no photographs can do it justice. I’m glad I chose to come outside of the festival days though, as the space is really small and was already crowded when I was there.
Once you’ve finished all obligatory photographs of the trees, lanterns and of course, a cute pose on ‘romance bridge’, you can take advantage of some delicious street food and drinks from the many stalls lining the road on either side of the stream. At night the entire section is lit up with all the lanterns to create an even more magical feel. I didn’t stay until the night as I was certain that frostbite was kicking in from trudging around in the cold with soaking wet shoes. I rather opted for the warmth of a makgeolli bar and some delicious pajeon. So yes, however you choose to see the cherry blossoms in spring, whether at a festival or not, be sure to do it in Jinhae. It really does expose these magnificent trees in the most beautiful way.
Just your average South African girl with a love for music, the Stormers, champagne, banana splits, dak galbi, Gogos bag drinks and an incurable addiction to Vanilla Steri Stumpie and cereal. When I’m not teaching English in Daegu, South Korea I’m fueling my wanderlust and scratching things off my bucket list!