Around the middle of April it was cherry blossom time in Japan. Needless to say I had been looking forward to this for a while. When foreigners think of Japan and typical Japanese things, the beauty of the cherry blossoms is one of the first things that comes to mind.
My anticipation was only increased by the excitement that takes hold of the entire Japanese nation as the blossom time approaches. The news report even gives daily reports on the advancement of the ‘cherry blossom front’.
Why do the Japanese people love cherry blossoms, or ‘sakura’, so much? Apart from the simple fact that the sight of a street lined with blooming cherry trees is just gorgeous, the Japanese feel touched by the transient beauty of the blossoms. The sakura are at their most beautiful for only a few days. One day of rain may destroy the fragile flowers. This short-lived beauty is often taken as a metaphor for life: so beautiful and yet so short and sad. Indeed when watching the blossoms, one may be touched by an intense joy and a sweet melancholy all at the same time.
Apart from these rather poetic feelings, of course the Japanese also love to celebrate the seasons and never pass up an excuse to gather with friends and enjoy some typical festival food.
In my efforts to see as much of the cherry blossoms as possible, I prepared for a ‘hanami’ (the viewing of the blossoms) on a sunny afternoon in April at one of Japan’s 100 most beautiful cherry blossom spots: the Yamazakigawa riverside in Nagoya.
Having been to a few other cherry blossom viewing spots earlier that week and being slightly underwhelmed, I was not prepared for the beauty of this place. Not only was it simply gorgeous, all other conditions were perfect as well: the weather was sunny and warm with a slight breeze, it was not too crowded since it was a weekday, and everyone I met was just as happy as I was. Even the animals I met were in a good mood. It truly seemed like a paradise on earth; some place as yet untouched by the rest of the world. A magic spell, just for one day.
Gewoonweg prachtig! Lente in al zijn ontkiemende zonnige verwarmende en hoopgevende kracht! Geniet ervan!
This year I learned another reason for the Japanese reverence for sakura: while staying in Nagano for a few weeks during the winter, I was amazed at the Japanese stoicism for the freezing weather. When I (somewhat exasperatedly) asked why they didn’t just insulate their homes better, and not suffer the cold so much, the response I got was:
“It’s winter, it’s supposed to be cold; then when spring comes along, you’ll really appreciate it!”
I couldn’t argue with that, there’s nothing more spring than sakura!
The Japanese are so hardcore when it comes to winter. Even with central heating, I still really appreciate spring time :-p
It’s true that sakura are the embodiment of spring. I at first considered naming this post ‘an explosive start to spring’.
The Japanese are proud of their four distinct seasons and spring is one of the best times of year to be in Japan with the beautiful cherry blossoms and hanami parties.
The Japanese always seem surprised when I tell them that in Belgium we have seasons too. But I have to admit that the seasons are most beautiful in Japan.
I guess in Australia we don’t really have clearly defined seasons. Even in the middle of summer we can get some really cold days where you have to wear a sweater. Must be Melbourne with its four seasons in one day 🙂
That sweater story sounds familiar. The thing I like best about the Japanese seasons is that they act like they’re supposed to. In Belgium we can have a sunny day that’s almost summer-like in February and rain and 15° C in August when it’s supposed to be bright summer. Crazy Belgian weather :-s
Mooi en prachtig hé ; gewoon ” overweldigend ” al die exploderende natuur rondom ons , geniet ervan , wij doen het nu ook (als het niet regent) alhoewel de regen milder word door de iets hogere temperatuur. Knuf ; en straks ?? Dikke buik van al die kersen te eten ?,
Ik weet eigenlijk niet of de Japanse kersenbomen eetbare kersen produceren. Misschien iets om eens op te zoeken.