Sunday, March 29, 2009

cherry blossoms springing forth

The sakura season seems to be one of the most anticipated events in the Japanese calendar. An annual event which holds several significance, one of which is new beginnings, the hanami is where Japanese and foreigners alike throng parks all over the country to enjoy cherry blossoms.

This year the official hanami sighting (at least for Tokyo) was set at March 25th. However, depending on the weather and temperature, the lifespan of the cherry blossoms can last for 1-2 weeks from the time when they first start blooming.

Part 1 : Last week [21 March 2009]

Signs of spring; green buds sprouting from bare branches.

Part 2 : Yesterday [27 March 2009]

Some of the trees had already started blooming with cherry blossoms. Looking at the weather, still rather chilly, we should be able to enjoy hanami for at least another week.

Japanese reserve prime hanami spots by placing mats below the sakura trees with their names and hanami time slots. Sometimes they have people sitting (in the case above, sleeping even) to make sure the place is not taken away by other people. At the Edogawa Park near where I live, there are rows and rows of such placards with borders to signify territory for each hanami group.

Trust the Japanese to be so trusting. Once the placard is placed at that spot, it will still be there when the owner and his group of friends return at the designated time to enjoy their cherry blossoms. If this was Malaysia, I would not be surprised if that same placard would be replaced (and replaced again!) by someone else's. And there would be no proof to show who had placed his placard there in the first place.

There are even designated garbage areas to throw burnable, non-burnable trash, PET bottles, cans and vinyl trays. I don't have to elaborate how and where the trash will end up if this was in Malaysia. :)

Part 3 : Today [28 March 2009]

Spring is officially here! Almost everyone is out this weekend for the hanami. Yoyogi Park is one favourite spot because of its large expanse of land, no entrance fee, and best of all, lots of cherry blossoms in full bloom. Crisp weather, fresh flowers, simple pleasures.

Part of the Malaysian friends who organised the hanami this afternoon. It's picnic time with home-cooked food for us, whereas the typical Japanese hanami comprise of bento from the convenience store and cartons of beer.

Yoyogi Park has always been a favourite with musicians and dancers who seek somewhere to express their talent without having to pay exorbitant fees to rent a studio or karaoke room. It's always very lively taking a walk in this park no matter the season.

Since the lifespan of the sakura is only about 1-2 weeks, they are best enjoyed at the peak of their bloom. Hence, the sakura is also a reminder of how precious life is, and that it is to be lived to the fullest. Carpe diem!

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