A time not to miss in Japan ~ The beauty of Sakura

“The Japanese are crazy about Cherry Blossoms,” I heard it hundreds of times, it seemed like. “OK, so they’re really pretty. Yeah, pink flowers, I get it…” but I didn’t get it.

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My English student who worked in California once told me, “California was good, but for me..I didn’t really like it… The years went fast. I felt very tiring,” he tried to explain.

“You felt tired?” I corrected him, “why?”

“Because, in California, there are no seasons. The years pass by, and I have nothing to pace myself with. In Japan, we have spring, when the cherry blossoms come out, summer with our festivals, fall with koyou [autumn foliage], and winter, when we can go skiing. The seasons tell me the year is passing. In California, it is always summer, so I couldn’t pace myself. I missed the seasons in Japan,” he explained honestly.

And so it is true. I never thought of it that way, but the seasons are a beautiful thing that remind us we live in a world that existed before our crazy lifestyles were made the norm.  I always thought I was lucky to live in a place where it was always summer, but after living in Japan, I have deep appreciate and respect for the changing of our Earth’s climate (even though, in my first year, I was really upset that I had to keep buying new clothes to deal with the different temperatures!).

So, it didn’t take long after winter was over until we were bombarded with Sakura, which is the Japanese name for Cherry Blossoms, advertisements. Pictures were plastered in the subway station, banners were hanging from the ceilings, magazines and newspapers had pictures of locations in Japan with the best cherry blossom, and Sakura flavored everything! products began to pop up. In Japan, it’s impossible to be unaware of the seasons and holidays.

Sakura are like the most beautiful princess you could imagine. She is so beautiful, that she must be locked in her castle to prevent everyone from becoming dazed by her beauty. If she roamed around her city, people wouldn’t be able to work, rules would be bent, laws would be broken, and the society would fall apart. So, she must stay inside for the benefit of society. However, it is a shame to lock up something so beautiful, so once a year, she stands on her balcony so everyone can appreciate and remember what it is to love beauty. It is a very special time, and it uplifts everyone and motivates them to continue doing their best. After this nice little break, she returns to her castle until it’s time again the next year.

 

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That was my romantic comparison. What I mean is, Sakura are so beautiful, but they only bloom for one week or so. As you can imagine, this only adds to their charm and makes you appreciate them even more.  I heard this talk before, but it wasn’t until I saw cherry blossoms in my own eyes, that I was finally able to appreciate them.

One day, I was walking on my break in Nihombashi. I never noticed the skinny little trees that were planted on the sidewalk, until this day. As I was walking along, dredging going back to work, unenthusiastically observing the concrete on the ground, I noticed something was different. I lifted up my head and literally let out a gasp. Those boring skinny little trees were actually not boring at all! They actually had life! This day, they were VERY alive in fact, and standing proudly and beautifully holding a bouquet of pink cherry blossoms! I hadn’t known that these were cherry blossom trees, and the fact that the whole sidewalk was brilliantly planted with cherry blossom trees completely changed this part of the city.

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Flowers at the Imperial Palace in Otemachi, Tokyo.

 

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Imperial Palace Flowers

 

The street flourished in pink. The street, which previously was a boring street in an ugly financial district area full of tall grey buildings, was magically turned into one of the most beautiful streets I had seen in Japan! The trees covered the streets in a beautiful pink collage of these flowers. It made your sight glow in a pink tint. I stood there, with my mouth open, feeling a little dumb for not realizing that today–was the start of Sakura season.

Please visit Japan in April during Sakura season. I think there is nothing more beautiful that nature and in this world, what better way to be modern than enjoy nature in the world’s most advanced country ^^ Spend a few days finding your favorite Sakura spots. Relax, enjoy, and refresh your mind with the sight of these little princesses. Do as the Japanese do, and grab a blanket, pack a delicious lunch (or buy a deliciously made for this reason O-bento), and top it off with some Sakura wine, or Sakura Sparking Cider (and Sakura ice cream—why not!) and ENJOY a picnic under the pink stars!

Ueno and Yoyogi park are famous places for this event, called “Hanami”, or Cherry blossom viewing. Companies throw these little parties were everyone enjoys eating and getting drunk under the flowers. This is one of my favorite aspects of Japanese culture. It’s a shame to miss out on this one!

My mother and I visited Ueno park and were completely blown away. Instead of skinny little trees with cherry blossoms, there were HUGE fat trees, EVERYWHERE, flaunting their beautiful little cherry blossom children. The grass was covered with Japanese people playing games, laughing, singing Karaoke, and spilling their drinks around (at around 1pm).

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At Ueno Park, but NOT in full bloom!

 

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“Oh, Monica! Let’s grab a beer and sit next to some Japanese business men! Maybe we can find you a nice boyfriend!!” my mother shouted excitedly. Being already taken, we opted to grab a can from one of the numerous stands selling beer and food in the park, and enjoyed strolling around the park, admiring the many different trees. “Oh my God! LOOK at their food! It’s so fancy! They have everything! Expensive sushi! Seafood! Even Pizza?! Maybe they will invite us to eat with them!!” my mother continued, like a child in a toy store.

Words cannot describe the beauty of these fleeting miracles.

Even their departure is beautiful.

When it is time to go, they quietly let go of their mother and fall delicately, so beautifully, to the floor.

There, they join their sisters and make a beautiful pink restful blanket that you regret to walk over.

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