Someone once told me that one of the most enjoyable things in life is watching the jacaranda trees in full bloom in the spring. En masse they appear like a bright purple haze and it’s a great time to go for a leisurely stroll.
In Japan, it’s the sakura – or Japanese cherry blossom – that moves the nation.
There’s a whole festival in Japan dedicated to cherry blossom viewing. It’s called hanami. Hanami heralds the beginning of spring. In Honshu (central island of Japan), the first cherry blossom flower starts blooming in March, with the “sakura front” making it’s way north with the advent of warmer weather. There are over 100 varieties of sakura in Japan.
The sakura’s delicate pink petals bloom for only a few days. Wind and rain can cause the petals to fall before their time and the green shoots of spring overtake the blossoms within days. The delicate and passing nature of the sakura and it’s symbolism for the transient nature of life has been the subject of Japanese folk songs and poetry for centuries.
Many locals and tourists try to plan their travel in Japan during the height of hanami so they can enjoy the gorgeous surrounds of sakura in famous temples, gardens and parks. During the peak of hanami, you’ll see tens of thousands of Japanese families and friends compete for their favourite spots for picnics in the parks and along the rivers where the sakura bloom.
Office workers will get together for an evening of hanami after a hard day’s work with bento boxes, sake and beer in tow.
Hanami is a celebration of new life, the advent of spring and a special time enjoyed with the company of friends & family. In many parks and in the grounds of temples there are tents selling festival food from fairy floss to fish on a stick and of course many of the staples of Japanese cuisine.
The traditional Japanese folk song “Sakura Sakura” is a popular song that is played all over Japan with many modern day interpretations.
If you thought jacarandas were grand, a trip to Japan in spring will prove that the sakura are nothing to be sneezed at.