Tag Archive for cherry blossoms
Are you thinking of what to do in Japan these Spring holidays? Look no further. Of course I talk mainly of Nagoya in central Japan. In case you don’t know. Nagoya is the major city in between Tokyo and Osaka. It is the home of the Toyota Motor Corporation, and the famous blue Central JR bullet trains. Land prices here rival that of Tokyo and London, and it’s one of the richest cities in the world. It’s also a convenient base for travellers. So, if you’re going to be in Japan and looking for travel ideas, start with these. Oh, and here’s one little trivial point to mention. The Spring holidays start mid-Winter (end of January), and finish in early Spring (early April). Don’t ask me why, just go with it.
For each below, there are links that include How to Get There information.
1. Plum blossoms
Plum flowers typically bloom in about the last week of February and last until about mid-March (depending on the species and the weather). These flowers have more petals than cherry blossoms, last longer, and have more vibrant colours. These flowers used to be the most revered until a Kyoto poet captured Japanese hearts for the cherry blossoms. Plum flowers can be enjoyed at many major parks, including private botanic gardens like Nabana no Sato, the Nagoya Agricultural Centre, and Higashiyama Park (at Higashiyama Koen Station, Higashiyama Line).
2. Osaka Sumo Tournament
The Osaka Sumo Tournament is a little unique. It’s the only sumo tournament where the wrestlers need to walk through the public areas between the fighting mound in the centre of the stadium, to the changing rooms out back. So you can get close enough to get clear photos of the wrestlers just before and after their bouts. The tournament runs from the second Sunday of March for fifteen days until the fourth Sunday. Tickets are available online and can be picked up at the venue from special machines; don’t forget your purchase code and info. Learn more about the sumo here at the Going to a Sumo Tournament post.
3. The Naked Man Festival
Don’t worry, they’re not all men; they’re not completely naked; and it’s not so much a festival that you have to take part in… unless you really want. It’s held annually on the 15th of January in the lunar calendar (usually between mid February to early March). In 2015 it was held on the 3rd March (Gregorian Calendar). The festival attracts about 13,000 participants (males from about 6 or 7yo, to those about 70 or 80. You’ll even see tattooed gangsters playing their part as members of the community, too. You’ll have to bump your way through a crowd of perhaps 150,000 to 200,000 spectators of mainly excited women and girls. The festival is also known as the Hadaka Matsuri (“hadaka” is ‘naked’, and “matsuri” is ‘festival’).
4. The Fertility Festival
Like the Naked Man Festival, this festival traces it’s roots to ancient Japan and is held with strong religious connections. It basically is a large wooden phallus being joyously carried through the Tagata township. On the internet it’s also known as the penis festival. It’s held on the 15th March each year (Gregorian Calendar). See here for specific info on the Tagata Fertility Festival.
5. Cherry blossoms / Sakura
Of course, no mention of Spring and Japan is complete without mentioning the delicate and fleeting petals of a tree that bears no fruit, yet covers almost every temple and shrine and park in the country for about one week. The image below was taken at Nagoya Castle. You can get there via the subway Meijo Line, at the Shyakusho-mae Station in downtown or central Nagoya. The castle is also a museum and has the Nagoya gymnasium which hosts the July summer sumo tournament. There are some specific things you can do in this fleeting time, typically one week, and it involves friends, alcohol, bad decisions, and can be day or night. Learn five things about hanami here (hanami literally means “flowers-see”).
Bonus: Tado Horse Festival
The Tado Horse Festival is held in the Golden Week holidays, the end of April and early May. It’s held in Tado, a small township just outside of Kuwana city, which itself is outside of Nagoya. The festival typically attracts about 120,000 spectators. It’s major.
Welcome to Spring. Japanese people go crazy over cherry blossom viewing, I guess because it’s the first sign that the winter cold is breaking, and warmer days are clearly ahead. However, the plum flowers are already blooming, and have been for most species for about a month, but the cherry blossoms (or “sakura”) bloom for a week before the Spring breezes blows the petals away. Also, even though there are hundreds of thousands of these trees across the country in various species and varieties, most of these bear no edible fruit.
A young Japanese lady admiring the cherry blossoms. For this model released photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter Seasons gallery.
1. Weather and when
The cherry trees blossoming is triggered by warmer weather, beginning in Okinawa in the south in February, to central Japan where they typically blossom in the second week of April, to Hokkaido in June (I think). The trees typically remain in bloom for seven or eight days. If there’s heavy rain, the petals are out for a very short time, but if the weather remains mild, the cherry blossom parties, or “Hanami Matsuri” can go on for nearly two weeks. Japanese Meteorological Agency used to provide blooming forecasts for nearly fifty years, but a few years ago they ended this service. Too many tour companies have tried to sue the JMA for inaccurate forecasting, costing the tour companies lots of money because of their own inflexibility and understanding of weather and nature. Now there are websites that make their own predictions that you can use like JNTO.
For this cherry blossom (sakura) photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter Cherry Blossoms gallery.
2. Language point
The following contains both Roman, Chinese and Hiragana characters. “Hanami” (花見、はなみ), literally means ‘flower viewing’ (Wikipedia), but what Japanese people really mean is just hanging out and enjoying cherry blossom trees. “Sakura” (桜、さくら) means ‘cherry trees’ and ‘cherry blossoms’, and “ume” (梅、うめ) means ‘plum’, ‘plum tree’, and ‘plum flowers’.
Flowers on a Japanese plum tree. For this photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter Cherry Blossoms gallery.
3. How it’s celebrated
Usually cherry blossom parties are held by groups of people. Usually work colleagues, community groups (typically neighbourhood groups), university clubs, groups of friends, and some times families get together for this. For evening parties, one or two poor sods have to get a tarp and some basic supplies and stake out a good spot until the evening when the others arrive. Usually its the young office staff or secretaries job to do this. Otherwise, most folks have their party in the day time. I think it’s still quite uncomfortably cool even in the day time, so day time parties are more common. They usually have a small bar-be-cue, have sake and beer, and relax and enjoy themselves without any loud frivolities.
For this Hanami (cherry blossom party) photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter Cherry Blossoms gallery.
4. Why cherry blossoms and not plum flowers?
Good question. The plum flowers are out much longer, they start earlier, and some species are out in the warmer part of spring, too. Also, plum flowers are usually much nicer or prettier. In fact, in the Nara period (710-794AD), it was the plum flowers that were revered, and to some extent the cherry blossoms and wisteria. Later, because of famous literary works focusing on cherry blossoms, the other options fell to the wayside (Wikipedia/Hanami History). Cherry blossoms are out for only a week typically at the start of April in central Japan. This timing, and brevity, seems to act as a convenient demarcation in time for Japanese people. School and university calendars start in April, companies have their new recruits start in April, companies transfer their staff to start in April, so March-April is also the moving season. The end of March marks the end of storage and tax-thingamy time, so major electronics stores have sales before new models are shipped and put on display. It seems the start of April is the time when Japan hits the reset button and lots of things starts fresh.
For this cherry blossom school sports photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter Cherry Blossoms gallery.
Continuing on from point 4 above, it is said by Japanese people that the life of a samurai is short lived, with the sudden start and end as the cherry blossoms themselves. A good for a samurai is to have a quick sudden end, rather than a gradual fade to nothing, much like the sudden fall of petals from a cherry tree.
Nagoya castle in the Spring. For this photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter Cherry Blossoms gallery.
This POTW was originally drafted for Monday the 8th April, but due to technical difficulties it was delayed.
It’s that time of year when the cherry blossoms (sakura) are… were out. They cherry blossoms are usually out in my area now, and would be for the next week or so, at least until the spring breeze blows their fragile petals from their stems. However, due to unseasonally warm weather in the last month, the cherry blossoms bloomed quite early. Also, due to unseasonal weather, most of Japan suffered from high winds, in some areas, classed as strong as typhoon winds, and perhaps more dangerous due to their sustained force. Usually, company groups, community groups, and families go and enjoy picnicing and partying under the gentle pink blossoms in the day or when lit up at night in what’s called ‘hanami’ (cherry blossom viewing) parties. This is also a feature for new recruits to companies who traditionally start in April, as a way of welcoming in the new department employees. This year, I doubt it was much of an event because it was so early, and because of the typhoon like winds on the weekend, which should have been prime cherry blossom viewing party time. Consequently, the best I could do this year is to post a file photo, from 2006 below, and see the gallery for more cherry blossom photos.
This Photo of the Week is of cherry blossoms (sakura) at Nagoya Castle in Japan. Soon companies, family groups, friends will gather and start picnicing under these trees. They’ll have a little too much to eat, and a little too much beer. It’s a rare time when Japanese will let their hair down and relax. All the while pretending that it’s not uncomfortably cool.
This Photo of the Week is for Spring. In southern parts of Japan cherry blossoms, known in Japanese as ‘sakura’, will soon start blooming, and as the warmer temperature clime moves north blomming will reach central Japan early April, and be in Hokkaido at about the end of April early May. Of the many species of cherry blossoms in Japan, the particular ones Japanese most enjoy bloom for just one week. However, some springs are a bit windy which blows the petals away within a few days, and some springs are warm and so the blooming time can be almost two weeks. Whilst the flowers are in bloom, many community groups, groups of friends & families, and companies get together for picnic, barbeques, and to consume lots of Asahi beer. This kind of party is known in Japanese as ‘hanami’, translated as ‘flower viewing’.
The reason why cherry blossoms became so popular for parties is that they are a metaphor for a warrior’s life. It is short lived, beautiful, and ends suddenly. The tradition continues in modern times presumably because it is a convenient narrow-point in the calendar to identify the time for such parties. In spring there are other species of cherry blossoms that bloom for almost a whole month, and the much prettier plum flowers bloom for a month or so as well.
Thanks to +John Asano reminding me that it’s almost Cherry Blossom (sakura) season, which is usually the end of March early April and goes for about a week. In Japan friends, social groups, companies, and families all stake out a place under an arboretum of cherry blossoms and have barbeques and pretend it’s not uncomfortably cool. These barbeques / parties are known in Japanese as ‘hanami’, or ‘flower looking’. Because of the 11th March earthquake last year, most people thought it bad taste to have a party only a month after the disaster, so there were very few hanami parties in 2011, and so I bet they’ll make up for it this year. See more Japanese pictures at my PhotoShelter portfolio.
This year, I made up a gallery of pictures that have “sakura” as a keyword. I’ll admit that I was in that stage where I was repulsed from taking hanami party pictures, until last year when I couldn’t. So this year I’ll add more to the collection.
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.
That’s right, it’s Cherry Blossom (sakura) season in Japan. To celebrate the new school and company year Japanese go out and get drunk under pretty pink flowers. How can you join in? Well, here’s a 10% discount coupon for use only at my PhotoShelter account for all of April 2011 (minimum USD$25 purchase). Coupon code: SAKURA2011.