In spring, Japanese pay more attention to weather reports on TV as they report the latest forecasts of cherry blossoms’ blooming every day. Cherry blossom viewing is an important part of Japanese culture and enjoyed by people all over the country. They visit parks, gardens and mountains to relish the seasonal natural beauty of pink petals. In most of the main island Honshu, cherry blossoms bloom from late March to early April.
The practice “hanami” began in the eighth century among aristocrats who occasionally wrote traditional Japanese poetry “waka” while viewing the bloom. “Hanami” literally means flower viewing, but this flower always refers to “sakura” or cherry blossoms. It was in the Edo period in the 1600s that the custom spread among ordinary citizens.
A part of “hanami” is drinking and eating “bento” lunch boxes with families, friends and co-workers under the branches with cherry blossoms. Others enjoy the bloom by strolling around parks, gardens, mountains and river banks filled with cherry trees.
“Sakura” is a flower that symbolizes Japan and many people have a special feeling about it. This may come partly from the Japanese tendency that appreciates the beauty of things that are transient and ephemeral in nature. Some liken cherry blossoms to a life as they are both ephemeral. The bloom usually lasts only less than a week.
The popularity of cherry blossoms has something to do with their familiarity. Along with various tourist spots such as traditional gardens, shrines and castles, cherry trees can easily be found in the neighborhood. They are planted at small parks for children, schools, and along rivers and streets.
Among popular “hanami” spots in Tokyo are Rikugien, Ueno Onshi Park, Sumida Park and Inokashira Onshi Park. Rikugien, one of Tokyo’s most beautiful Japanese landscape gardens, is famous for the beauty of its weeping cherry trees, particularly when illuminated with night-time lights. Cruise tours on the Megurogawa River and the Sumidagawa River are also popular.
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