New Taipei City (新北市) is inviting people to visit the many parks and tourist attractions in the city’s mountainous districts to enjoy the cherry blossoms during the Lunar New Year holiday.
At the launch of this year’s New Taipei City Cherry Blossom Festival yesterday, New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) welcomed visitors to come enjoy the myriad activities, contests and give-aways featured in the festival.
“After becoming a special municipality, New Taipei City residents chose the Taiwan cherry tree (台灣山櫻) [prunus campanulata] our city tree,” Chu said.
“People who visit our city can appreciate the beauty of the cherry blossoms. For the Lunar New Year period, we are expecting a large number of tourists to arrive to enjoy the blossoms and our hot springs. These will give a much-need boost to the local tourism and hospitality industries,” he added.
Chu gave the festival’s programs and activities his seal of approval by stamping zan (讚) — a Chinese character meaning to give praise or approval — onto a large painting of a cherry blossom tree at yesterday’s event.
The launch was held in the city’s Wulai District (烏來), against a backdrop of cherry trees in full bloom dotting the landscape.
“There are about 150,000 cherry trees in our city and they usually start to bloom in February and March,” Chu said.
He said that last year’s festival attracted more than 1 million visitors, especially to the city’s Wulai, Pinglin (坪林), Shiding (石碇), Sanzhi (三芝) and Tamsui (淡水) districts, because these are renowned for their cherry trees.
An official from the city’s Bureau of Agriculture said it is expanding the cherry blossom events already underway in several districts.
The bureau has also set up a Web site with updates on the flowering conditions of the trees so the public can plan to visit at the optimal viewing times.
The festival features photography and video contests, giveaways and other events during, which goes from this week through the end of next month.
Visitors and local residents are encouraged to pick up the festival’s guidebook at district offices and tourist centers throughout the city.
“The festival guidebook has information on where to go to see cherry blossoms in all 29 districts of our city, as well as mapping out routes for how to get there. People who collect official stamps from five of the districts will be eligible for the prize draw, where they can win motorcycles, smartphones, gold coins and tablet computers,” the bureau official said.
Embarking on excursions to the enjoy cherry blossom trees in the spring is a favorite pastime of many Taiwanese, a practice which has its roots in cultural customs introduced by the Japanese government during the colonial era. Many Taiwanese even call the cherry blossom sakura, the Japanese name for the tree.