My First Cherry Blossom Season

24 Jul 2021

We had a massive storm in Yokohama about 2-3 days

after the first buds blossomed and many people were worried that the intense weather would drastically affect or stomp out the season by blowing away the buds and flowers, happily it did not. It did however wipe out power in parts of Tokyo for nearly a day and delay many transport vessels including passenger trains which can simply stop running if the wind is strong enough. Thousands of employees in Tokyo and Yokohama were sent home early in an attempt to spread out rush hour and to try and avoid people getting stranded if the trains did stop running. Wow, can you imagine getting stranded at the office?

Anyway, as one might imagine, there are cherry blossom tree’s planted all across Japan leaving the entire country to bloom from bottom to top, or South to North in sequential beauty. For anyone who does not know, Japan basically lines up with Washington State and runs all the way down past to Southern California right into the top of Mexico. For some reason I thought it was further North than it actually is. That said, the weather here in Yokohama is quite similar to that of Vancouver.

There are a variety of species of cherry blossom trees scattered all over the city lining the streets and canals, parks and gardens alike. There are a lot of fascinating traditions here in Japan, not the least of which being, “Hanami” which means, “flower viewing” and almost always refers specifically to cherry blossoms. I don’t know what comes to mind when you think of flower viewing,…. I pictured nature lovers walking around slowly with their eyes in the sky, clipboards and cameras, bumping into everyone else and fumbling around. Was I wrong? Oh yeah!

I was told quite politely that the tradition here is to gather your family and friends and sit under the bloomin’ trees and enjoy a picnic together! Sounds nice, but they neglected to mention the picnic usually includes beer and bubbly for toasting and further enjoyment of the season’s festivities! I admit I can be a bit naive at times, but this also sounded quite tame and Sunday afternoon-ish to me. Not because I sit in parks drinking bubbly on Sunday’s (oh boy am I digging myself a hole here?) but because the Japanese people tend to be quite shy and reserved in normal situations. I guess that’s why they also seem to really bust loose when the occasion suits!

Truthfully, what we encountered several times were full-on parties in the park complete with music, laughter, card games, chess and Mahjong, people sleeping, eating, drinking, drawing, painting, kids running around playing and the hum that fills the background of busy places with lots of chatter! Mark and I were actually stunned to come across the first one and we resisted the urge to grab a 6-pack and join em! Not exactly sure why we resisted, but we did! Maybe next year!

You might notice the blue tarps people are sitting on which makes for a great waterproof blanket. People either bring their own, or rent an existing one in the really popular areas. Friends of ours had a company Hanami party after work one day and that morning their tarp was set up amongst several others complete with a box or two of supplies (food & drink I presume) waiting for their arrival. No one supervises or watches these areas and yet not one thing was touched or disturbed along this busy part of the boardwalk! Amazing.

If there is anything I can possibly say that is not wonderful about these 2 weeks (other than going by too fast), it’s that almost everything else is still in winter hibernation and is yet to turn green or red or yellow or whatever…… The cherry blossoms are pretty much the first to spring to life. Mind you, if anything deserves all the attention, they surely do!

There is no shortage of suggestions on where to go to see the most spectacular CBT’s. One strong recommendation took myself and a friend to Tokyo to visit Shinjuku Gyoen Koen Park, which is the former Imperial Gardens! W-ow! These gardens were completed in 1906 and were originally intended for royalty, but became open to the public in 1949. Apparently, the gardens were destroyed in 1945 during the latter part of WW II. I suspect it was only partially damaged as there are many, many trees that appear to be well over 60 years old.

This giant park is over 58 hectares and is 3.5km around. The incredibly diverse agriculture here includes over 20,000 trees and of those 1,500 are cherry blossoms. It is absolutely beautiful and distinctly set apart from typical parks. I cannot find anything to substantiate this, however I feel that because these gardens were constructed and intended for royalty they must contain flora treasures given as gifts from all over the world. I can say there are Himalayan cedars, cypresses and dedicated English & French garden areas.

My favorite part of this parkis under the cherry blossom canopy which stretches out far enough for a good, long stroll…. As I walked through this tree tunnel, a light breeze carried hundreds of petals through the air and sent them twinkling down to the ground. To risk using a tired phrase, THAT was surreal and I was instantly transported into some fairytale from my youth, it was magical!

Many couples choose to get married during cherry blossom season and I can certainly understand why!

and it is all over far too soon………

Bye for now

Originally From April, 2013

cherry blossom season hanami living in Japan

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