|Cherry blossoms in Kyoto Japan, along Kano River|
The Tradition of Hanami
When I lived in Kyoto, Japan I was lucky to see Hanami in action. In Japan, the seasonal blooming of cherry trees is celebrated nationally in an event known as hanami (flower-viewing).
The practice of hanami is centuries old; it began during the 8th century, when it referred to the viewing of the ume, or plum tree. But later hanami was synonymous with 'sakura' - cherry - and the blossoming of the cherry trees was used to predict the next year's harvest.
Hanami was a time to perform rituals marking the start of the planting season. These rituals ended with a feast under the cherry trees, and this persists to today. Starting in late March, television weather reporters give the public daily blossom forecasts, tracking the "cherry blossom front" as it progresses from the south to the north. Families, coworkers, and friends rely on these to quickly organize hanami parties as the cherry trees begin to bloom locally.
|Hanami at night|
|Sakura lanterns at Ueno Park for nightime Hanami|
Why the cherry? The delicacy of the sakura blossom has captivated the Japanese for centuries and you can find it in many forms of Japanese art. But the flower's delicate quality lends it a melancholy air, as well. After the cherry tree's buds open, it's just a few short days before the blooms vanish entirely -- the lovely petals all fall in a spectacular pink flurry. The blossoms' ephemeral beauty adds to its quiet allure.
|sakura in japanese city|