The cherry blossom or Sakura is glorified throughout Japan as “the flower of flowers”symbolisingperfection.
Viewing the blossom has been a Japanese custom since the 7th century when the aristocrats enjoyed observing the beautiful sakura and wrote poems about them. Today for approximately two weeks each spring it seems the Japanese go a little crazy. Eyes are glued to the TV as the weather forecasters excitedly follow the arrival of the ‘cherry blossom front’ as it moves northwards across the country, and usually hits Tokyo in early April.
Everyone is talks about the blossom, taking photos, having parties and enjoying the beauty that lasts for a short time each year. As the start of cherry blossom season indicates the arrival of spring, when days begin to lengthen and warmer weather returns.
Buds begin to unfurl and the delicate pastel pink petals flourish. Parks are transformed as hundreds of people gather to walk beneath the cherry trees, their branches laden with blossom.
An important Japanese custom is to hold a cherry blossom viewing party (hanami); families roll out blue tarps which they all seem to carry and bring home cooked meals or take-out food and picnic under the cherry trees. Along the paths are stalls of food ready prepared by the festival vendors which include speciality dishes of the region and local crafts for souvenirs.
Ueno Park in Tokyo has over a thousand trees and as you can imagine gets very crowded as it is a popular spot for cherry tree blossom parties. Kyoto Maruyama Park is a popular spot for parties, in the grounds is a large weeping cherry tree that is illuminated each evening.
Spring time in Japan can be a memorable experience especially if you time it right and arrive during cherry blossom season.