Every year, the cherry blossom viewing parties, known in Japanese as ‘hanami’ (lit flower-seeing) are popular. Groups of friends, company staff-groups, university clubs, social clubs, and others gather under cherry trees to bar-be-que and drink beer and sake. It’s a nice time as the weather is more clement and the air lacks chill, and parks that are loaded with cherry trees are a really nice break from the bleak colours of winter.
However, winter of 2011 in Japan hasn’t ended on the best of notes. Cherry blossom viewing and associated revelry is a national obsession, but anyone having so much fun this year would surely feel a sense of guilt. People living and suffering in temporary shelters (mainly school gyms) have lost everything, including their hanami cliques, and their favourite groves of cherry trees. Furthermore, I’m sure no-one really wants to be seen having fun right now. So, the cherry blossom parties are out, and I’ve found it hard to find any one doing more than strolling past and smiling at the gentle pink hues.