Friday, April 06, 2007

Things Japanese (2): O-hanami

Spring is in the air!

In Japan, ‘tis the season for enjoying the cherry blossom. The cherry blossom, or sakura in Japanese, is the national flower of Japan. But more than that, it is a flower that has inspired countless poets to pen down praises, and painters to splash colours onto canvases, in this nation of art and nature lovers.

One activity which reflects their adoration of the sakura is none other than “hanami” which literally means "flower viewing". It refers to the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of cherry blossoms.

As spring approaches, the opening of the flowers is keenly monitored by the whole nation, and a national "cherry blossom front" is closely charted as it slowly moves up the Japanese archipelago from Okinawa to Hokkaido.

The blossom forecast is announced by the weather bureau, and it is watched carefully by those planning hanami as the blossoms only last for one week.

The poor weather bureau folks really have their work cut out for them, though. Trying to predict when exactly flowers will blossom is hard enough. But when predictions go wrong, behold the wrath of the Japanese public!

A big hue and cry in the media is not uncommon as people complain of wrecked party plans and businesses affected as purchases of food, beverage, picnic equipments, photographic equipments etc. do not go as planned for.

No wonder the Japanese weather bureau people are always on tenterhooks come spring time.

But for the rest of the nation...its party time!

Groups of friends, office co-workers, etc. would head for the nearest parks, lay down some mats, and start the merry-making by singing and dancing.

In Tokyo, the most popular spots for this would be the Ueno Park, as well as the Sumida Park along both sides of the Sumida River.

Tsukuba, where I used to study, has its fair share of fine spots too, such as the Matsumi Park, Ninomiya Park, as well as within and around the University campus.

As it is highly likely that my professor could be one of those howling away under the cherry trees, this would often be the perfect moment for me to take time off from college and bring the family to enjoy the blossoming cherry trees - not to mention, to sample the antics of Japanese at play...


More lovely photos of the current cherry blossom season in Japan (below) courtesy of my friend Fadjuri-san who is doing his Masters at the prestigous Tokyo University.

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