As mentioned in the the previous post, it’s Cherry blossom season. Cherry blossoms are known as ‘sakura’ in Japanese, and ‘hanami’ is to do ‘Cherry blossom viewing’. What I’ve been wanting to do for a long time was to visit a very historical temple and do my own hanami, there. Temples and shrines in Japan typically have lots of cherry blossom trees, which make some of them a tourist-magnet in cherry blossom viewing season.
Cherry blossoms blooming at Hase temple.
I organised a friend (Paul), a car (Porte), and a sunny day (Tuesday). Unfortunately it took an hour longer to get to Hase town from my place, and so we missed the best of the early morning light. They say, “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out into the midday sun”, which is good because I’m an Englishmen, so I have licence. What remains in the photo collection at Asia Photo Connection are the pick of photos that can work with the midday sun.
A rare view inside of the Main Hall of Hase Temple during a service
It’s that season again. Every year the cherry blossoms (known in Japanese as ‘sakura’) bloom for about just one short week. For over 400 years, since the edo era, the cherry blossom season has been a time for fun and frivolity, where Japanese can relax. Today, it’s an excuse for co-workers get out of the office and have beers, for the retired to meet their friends and have sake, and for families to have a bar-be-que.
A banner annoucing the Japanese cherry blossom festival
For over a thousand years, the cherry blossom has been a symbol of spring, and the start of a something new. The new school year begins in the first week of April, shortly after the cherry blossom season. Companies have their new recruits begin work in April, staff that are to be transferred begin in their new offices also in April. Many companies use the cherry blossom image, and cherry blossom petal as a symbol of their spring advertising campaigns. Electronic stores can use fake plastic cherry blossom trees as a part of their displays.
The week of blooming begins amid much anticipation. The cherry blossom blooms are triggered by warm weather. For about 50 years the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) have attempted to forecast when the trees would bloom. Japanese travel companies have come to rely on these forecasts and their accuracy, and complained when the JMA were not accurate enough. Consequently, 2009 was the final year in which JMA made cherry blossom forecasts, in an attempt to avoid such criticisms.
Close up of Japanese cherry blossoms (sakura) in the spring
The final part of the emotional experience that Japanese have with the cherry blossoms in the week of blooming is when the spring winds blow the dried petals in a small gentle-pink flurry. This has been seen in movies like “The Last Samurai”. The Japanese samurai viewed cherry blossoms as a metaphor of their own lives: short lived.