Monday, March 25, 2013

Sakura Season

Ueno Toshogu Shrine
Sakura zensen aka "cherry blossom front"  

It's that time in Japan--Sakura (cherry blossom) Season. The whole country goes mad for hanami, which means "flower viewing" and almost always refers to cherry blossoms. In a nutshell, at worst it's an excuse to cut loose and get drunk sitting on blue tarps in a park.

This year the blossoms opened really early in Tokyo--on March 16, nine days earlier than forecast. Yes, of course there is a cherry blossom forecast. There is cherry blossom everything--Starbucks and other coffee shops come out with special sakura goods, sweets, and coffee drinks.
Of course cherry blossoms are beautiful, but the Japanese appreciation for the flowers goes far beyond that. The ephemeral sakura, which last only a few weeks before falling to the ground in clouds of petals, are a metaphor for the transient and fleeting nature of life. Personally, I like the meaning behind hanami, but I think it's really  over-commercialized, akin to Christmas in the United States. Regardless, it's an occasion that's so distinctly Japanese!

Joining the throngs in Ueno Park

Somei Yoshino trees are the most popular--they look like clouds

Yoyogi Park

Yoyogi had much more of a party atmosphere then Ueno (it's in a younger part of town)

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