Haiku and Hanami

Even after almost three years in Japan, it still amazes me how seasonal everything is, starting from food, drinks, desserts, packaging, postcards, museum exhibitions and many other things. Also, the seasonal assortments tend to finish before that season actually starts, that is, first come, first served, and when its gone, it’s gone until another year (no restocking).

Sakura flavoured cake (p.s. the flowers you see are edible as well)

Looking through the photos from the three seasons of hanami and cherry blossom photo hunting, while sipping sakura wine and enjoying some last bits of sakura flavoured sweets, I compiled a small selection of my favourite photos paired with haiku, a traditional form of Japanese poetry.

Sakura wine, available only for a short time during February-March, i.e. before the actual cherry blossom season.

Haiku is a short poem, which, in its traditional form, consists of 17 syllables (or “sound units”), in three phrases of five, seven, and five respectively. Typically, it should also have a seasonal reference and a juxtaposition between two images or ideas, leading to a complete piece of art on its own. Modern Japanese haiku or haiku written in other languages may be much more flexible when it comes to the form and content.

I do not write haiku myself, but I learned that April 17th is considered to be International Haiku poetry day, and so it seemed to be a nice link with the about to end cherry blossom season (those who missed can still plan their Golden week in Hokkaido).

So here come eight pairs of Japanese haiku and (virtual) hanami:

“How many, many things
They call to mind –
These cherry blossoms.”
(Matsuo Bashō)

Cherry blossom season: so quick and so beautiful!

“Spring night,
Blossom dawn”
(Matsuo Bashō)

They brighten the day, the mood and the world around you.

“The cherry blossoms
Put the whole world
Under the tree”.

How I would like it to be…

…and how it actually is… (in most cases)

“In the city fields,
Contemplating cherry trees…
Strangers are like friends.”
(Kobayashi Issa)

“Strangers” at Tokyo Tower during cherry blossom season.

I like to think that it’s a group of friends that came for a picnic.

“The stillness!
The voice of the temple bell
Does not stir the cherry blossoms.”

Rainy day and a blooming cherry tree, Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine, Kyoto.

“Between our two lives
There is also the life of
The cherry blossom.”
(Matsuo Bashō)

Quiet before and after the season, busy on both the right and left banks, cherry blossoms all over in the middle – Nakameguro, Tokyo.

Same place, evening lights

“Even an old man has
New Year’s eyes…
Cherry blossoms.”
(Kobayashi Issa)

The time when young and old get equally excited!

Seeing the world through the eyes of a child.

“Petals falling
Unable to resist
The moonlight.”
(Yosa Buson)

Amazing feeling to walk around when it rains cherry blossoms…

The world continues turning around slowly and life goes on… cherry blossom fever is over until next year.

Cherry blossom season is over.

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