In Japan, April is best known as cherry blossom or sakura season. These gorgeous pink blooms last for only a too-brief period of a week or two. In a normal year, millions of residents and tourists alike would flock to prime cherry-blossom viewing spots to enjoy picnics, drink sake, and perhaps even recite some poetry. Unfortunately, like 2020 before it, 2021 is no ordinary year, and the majority of cherry blossom viewing events have been canceled to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Luckily, there is one place you can still see beautiful cherry blossoms: in video games! Many game designers have taken inspiration from these stunning trees and flowers and included them, usually to mark a particularly beautiful or peaceful in-game location. So pick out some sweets, pour a cup of sake, and boot up some of your favorite video games to observe these quarantine-safe, socially distant sakura views.
1. Satori Mountain - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Named for late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, Satori Mountain is one of the few peaceful locations in Breath of the Wild's calamity-torn Hyrule. This beautiful hideaway features a gorgeous, spreading cherry tree that is constantly in bloom, no matter the season or weather. It's home to a number of Blupees, Rupee-gifting spirits, as well as the majestic Lord of the Mountain himself, the game's rarest and most stunning mount. Cook up your favorite recipe in the nearby cooking pot and give Link a much-needed break to observe the cherry blossoms.
2. Mr. Flower's Quest - Okami
Amaterasu aka "Ammy," the adorable wolf/god protagonist of Okami, could probably populate this entire list by herself. Using the magic powers of her Celestial Brush, Amaterasu is capable of making previously dead trees burst into bloom. One particularly memorable section of the game has Ammy team up with "Mr. Flower," an NPC who... "helps" ...her by performing his special "Flower Dance" to bring the cherry blossoms back to the capital city. Once you've helped out Mr. Flower, grab a Holy Bone or two for Ammy to snack on and enjoy the fruits—or rather, flowers—of your labor!
3. Cherry Blossom Festival - Animal Crossing: New Horizons
An annual event brings cherry blossoms to the tropical island paradise of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Players can catch the delicate petals floating in the breeze and use them to craft sakura-themed decorations, such as furniture for your home. Cherry blossom season typically occurs in early April in the Northern Hemisphere. As an added bonus, you can invite friends over to your island and picnic together under the blooming cherry trees.
4. Pretty Much Anywhere - Muramasa: The Demon Blade
This action role-playing game for the Nintendo Wii takes place in Japan's Edo period, so of course one of Japan's most iconic images would make an appearance! Protagonists Momohime and Kisuke encounter blooming cherry blossoms several times during their journey, and the game's hand-drawn art style—reminiscent of Japanese traditional art from the time period—makes these vistas even more memorable and worthy of observation. Muramasa is a game filled with non-stop fighting, so Momohime and Kisuke could definitely use a sakura-viewing break once in a while.
5. Cherry Blossom Forest - Samurai Shodown III, IV & V
A number of warriors, both historical and fictional, battle it out in ancient Japan in the arcade-fighter series Samurai Shodown. In the third and fourth installments of the series, recurring protagonist Haohmaru faces the player in a stunningly unique stage called the Cherry Blossom Forest. True to its name, this blossom-strewn battlefield features a grove of cherry blossoms under a dark night sky. While it's not the easiest place to take a break and relax in, given that it is a combat stage, the cherry trees are definitely worth a look.
6. The Spring Season - Tengami
Tengami is an adventure game with puzzle-solving elements and an art style reminiscent of both traditional Japanese paintings and pop-up books. The game's ancient Japanese setting of course features cherry blossoms, which are shown in full bloom during the height of spring. The passing and changing of seasons is a major theme in Tengami, and players get to thoroughly enjoy the Japanese spring complete with groves of pink-blossomed sakura.
7. Cherry Blossom Grove - Bushido Blade
A number of fighting games feature cherry-blossom-themed stages in order to provide a contrast between fast-paced, high-tension battles and relaxing sakura viewing—and Bushido Blade is no exception. This 1997 title for the original PlayStation is even more deadly than your average battle-centric game, as characters do not have health gauges and instead can often be killed in a single hit, requiring a focus on dodging out of the way. If you're exhausted after surviving one of these high-stakes bouts, there's no better way to relax than a visit to Cherry Blossom Grove.
8. Your Farm in Spring - Stardew Valley
Instead of seeking out a pre-existing cherry blossom view, why not make your own? Farming simulator Stardew Valley offers that option by allowing you to plant cherry trees, which take a full season to grow and bloom during the Spring season—and you can plant as many on your farm as you want! Stardew's cherry trees not only feature pale pink blossoms, but they also sport juicy cherries which can be harvested each day and made into jam, wine, or candy. Why not enjoy some beneath your very own cherry trees? You can even invite the eligible bachelor or bachelorette of your choosing!
9. The Island of Tsushima - Ghost of Tsushima
OK, this one is cheating a little bit—but the flowers are still gorgeous and worth viewing. The beautiful blossoms which adorn Tsushima are actually plum, not cherry. You can tell this because they are whiter than their distinctively pink sakura cousins (plus, there's an in-game location called "Plum Blossom Shrine" to give you a hint). However, you can still give Jin a break from his journey to repel the invading Mongols to relax and look at some flowers. You could even write a haiku about them!
10. A More Modern View - Touhou Youyoumu ~ Perfect Cherry Blossom
This game in the ongoing Touhou series of "bullet hell" shooters is based on a traditional Japanese legend of a corpse discovered buried beneath a blooming sakura tree. The cherry blossom tree in Perfect Cherry Blossom is actually an antagonist, a demonic tree that drains energy and plunges Japan into an eternal winter. While you won't see too many actual cherry trees in this shooter, the majority of its levels feature bullet patterns inspired by cherry blossom petals blowing in the wind. If you want to make your cherry blossom viewing experience more action-packed and modern, definitely give this Touhou entry a try.
Bonus: "Sakura" Viewing
Many video-game characters throughout the years have been named "Sakura" in honor of the beautiful cherry blossom flower. Please enjoy this relaxing view of them, created by TechRaptor, especially for you!
Which cherry blossom view on this list is your favorite? Are there any that you think should have made the list? How will you be celebrating this unique cherry blossom season in 2021? Let us know!