no room in the selfie
Cherry blossom is one of the first things that come to mind when you think about Japan. It is indeed a national and international phenomenon attracting both locals and tons of tourists from all around the world.
During March it is one of the favourite discussion topics, first starting with the expected blooming start date in whatever location you are, the followed by discussion about the level of blooming (40%, 60% or 100%, i.e. full bloom). As you may understand, full bloom is the best time possible to have hanami. “Hanami” is a Japanese word, meaning “cherry blossom viewing party”, or in other words, picnicking under the blooming cherry trees.
Historical records show that hanami tradition dates back to as early as the third century AD, however, for a long time up until Edo period this tradition was limited only to elite of the Imperial Court. Now, hanami is enjoyed by everyone, and even cold weather is not an obstacle.
Depending on the weather, cherry blossom season may last only one week. This year, due to relatively cold spring, it lasts more than two weeks. I am happy that the peak waited till I could finally get out of the office.
In Japan, cherry blossom season also coincides with the start of the new fiscal/financial year, as well as the new school year or new job for fresh graduates. So don’t be surprised to see crowds of young people, all in almost identical black or dark grey suits.
Hanami is not just about picnic in the park, cherry blossom viewing has a much deeper meaning. Cherry blossoms represent an ephemeral nature of life, the exquisite beauty, fragility and transience of life. Stemming from the Buddhist tradition, it also refers to a graceful acceptance of destiny and karma.
Cherry blossom season is so beautiful and so short and that it makes this time even more precious to those who gather to enjoy it. We are always in a hurry and so often forget that the only moment worth living is now…
Tourists ask for directions
I send them by way of
the cherry blossoms**
* Joe McKeon, Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival 2015 winning haiku
** Rita Ager, Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival 2015 Sakura awards