“What a strange thing! To be alive beneath cherry blossoms.”
Earth to Sara? Were you living under a rock last year? The answer is yes. Yes, you were. Despite seeing all the sights I could last year, I missed out on one of the biggest celebrations of the year. I was lucky enough to live in Japan during sakura season (cherry blossom) and completely took it for granted. Tourists plan their whole trip around this season and even then, sometimes they aren’t lucky enough to see them in full bloom. The only things I can recall from sakura season last year was one short, lunch picnic and sending a few pictures to my mom while thinking “huh, pretty!”
Sakura season this year is something I am going to remember forever. The barren trees slowly budding, the blooms coming to fruition, and the delicate petals snowing down in the wind. It all happened so quickly. Thankfully, Japan knows how to celebrate the fleeting beauty.
The weeks that the sakura are in bloom are celebrated with hanami or flower viewing. The feeling and pride behind the word is so much more than just going to look at the flowers. It’s a time for everyone to join together to celebrate the blooms, the seasons changing, delicious food and drink, and good company. It feels like the whole country is out in full force picnicking in their local parks. It’s a sight to see (almost as much as the sakura)! Groups of all sizes set out their tarps, bring heaps of food, even more beer and drinks, and hang out for hours under the trees. Food stalls set up, street performers are out, and some groups bring their own instruments for entertainment. Hanami could almost be thought of a nice way of saying “let’s get drunk outside all week.”
This year we took every chance to be out there with the other swarms of people to enjoy the beauty! We hanami-ed with our friends in Ueno Park, took tons of pictures of the sakura lined creek in Naka-Meguro, walked along the lit up sakura of the Imperial Palace at night, and of course hanami-ed a few more times for good measure. Some memorable sakura sightings include older people taking pictures of the flowers with their flip phones, a pair of cats posing in one of the busiest areas, very drunk Japanese people, and sharing food and Jim Beam with some kind strangers. (Sorry, mom.) During all our sakura outings, my favorite memory was just celebrating with our friends. We’ve traveled with some of these people for the last year and a half. I love this lil’ traveling family.
One day, I will plant my very own cherry blossom tree and invite everyone over to celebrate hanami under its blooms!
Our hanami group in Ueno Park!
“I wish you looked at me the way people look at beer in Japanese ads.”
Our friends from Texas came right in time to see the final blooms!
Great Buddha in Kamakura