Spring comes full of meaning and marks the begging of a new cycle. For some cultures it also arrives with social and in spiritual renew. In Japan, this is the time when schools, universities, and fiscal year commence. And, because of the sunshine spring days warms up our hearts after such long cold winter, we get excited go out to do outdoor activities with family, friends, and pets. Or even to get married, why not?
When I came to Japan for the first time, it was spring. The streets were glowing pink and white and it was not hard to make believe that I was inside a surrealistic painting. Since then, I have been treasured these few weeks when the clouds of flowers in white, light pink and dark pink decorating public buildings’ gardens, roadsides, riversides, temples and shrines. It was so stunning, and tremendously beautiful that I cannot help falling in love with Japanese Spring.
Year after year, I have followed my folks to watch the cherry blossom (flowering viewing), known as Hanami in Japanese (花見). Sometimes, we grab some foods, drinks or snacks. Other times we take a chance to enjoy the delicious meal in neighbourhood restaurants, especially when the parks, riverside are crowned for laying down our blanket and having our picnic. It is really impressive the magic power of the spring to invite us to get together, share pleasure time, slow down our routines, and set up our mind for a new start.
In addition to all the attractiveness and charm, there are some interesting historical facts about Japanese spring. Despite the cherry trees (sakura, 桜 ) has been synonymous of Japanese spring, they are not native species in Japan, as evidences pointed out it probably originally from Himalayas. The two most popular varieties of cherry blossom (Prunus speciosa and Prunus x yedoensis) are also found in many countries within temperate zone, but it is here, where they make spring more than a season, turn into “The Spring”.
Cherry blossom was not famous flower during ancient Hanami. It only became popular in Heian Period (794–1185). Before that, plum blossom was the most admired it. And Hanami was limited to the Imperial Court and elite in Nara period (710–794). It took a lot of time and efforts to spread Hanami to whole society. One pioneer of Hanami popularization and Cherry Blossom incorporation in Japanese culture was Tokugawa Yoshimune, a famous Shogun. He plated cherry trees in public areas to encourage people to see the flowers.
Cherry blossom doesn’t last for more than two weeks in most of places, and in Hokkaido, it fall down in few days. Because of that it has been easily associated with Buddhism concepts that remands us of, as Cherry blossom, life is fascinating, and beautify, but brief.
Let’s enjoyed it!