Every year the appearance of the cherry blossom is a celebrated event in Japan. For the last several weeks we have been informed on TV and in the newspaper of the progress of the “cherry blossom front” as it sweeps across the country from Okinawa in the far south to Hokkaido in the north. Daily forecasts include the proportion of blossom expected in each location, from just beginning to bud to full bloom. Where the trees are planted in clusters the effect is certainly impressive, but sakura in Japan is really about the changing of the seasons. The bloom of the cherry blossoms heralds the coming of spring.
It is customary to partake in “hanami” at this time of year. This involves setting up picnic or BBQ at a nice spot below a blooming cherry blossom tree, and then proceeding to eat and drink the afternoon away. Blooming brilliant. To help facilitate this important cultural exercise our town holds an annual Sakura Festival. This year it was absolutely freezing, but we all attempted to ignore that fact to the extent that our bodies would allow, and enjoyed the food, dance and festivities. We felt particular sympathy for the Hawaiian Hula dancers.
The sakura were not in full bloom on the day. A few days later and all these trees were covered in brilliant white petals. A few days after that and after a heavy fall of rain the petals had fallen to the ground, blanketing the path in petal snow and flowing down the river like confetti. There is something about the transience of the cherry blossom that is a thing of beauty in itself.