Happy Ohanami

Happy Ohanami


Cherry trees blossom all over the world in Spring.  But in Japan, it is very special.    

Japanese winters are traditionally dry with blue skies and
bright white light.  It’s cheerful and sunny, but there’s not a lot of green in the modern concrete cities.  

So there’s a national obsession with watching for the first
signs of the cherry blossom and Spring. On national news, a map of the country will appear, with predictions of when the pinkness will begin, and the cherry blossom front is portrayed as a weather front, rising up from the South of the country. 

Many a haiku (17 syllable poem) focuses on the blossoms, or
the anticipation of them:

A spring breeze is blowing

I’m bursting with laughter

 - Wishing for flowers (Matsuo Basho, from Haiku blog)

Like everywhere, the pink blossom arrives before the leaves,
but unlike elsewhere, there are avenues of hundreds of trees in streets and parks around the country.  Many temples also have magnificent old trees. Japanese culture tends to seek perfection, and there are only 3 days when the blossom is considered to be in perfect full bloom (‘mankai’) in any particular region. 

It’s ephemeral and an intense opportunity for Ohanami (honorable blossom viewing) and for partying beneath the trees late into the evening.   When the trees are in full clouds of pink, office juniors are sent out to lay claim to the best spots for their colleagues later in the day.   You may see young men sprawled on blue tarpaulins, guarding the plot, the picnic
and the sake. It’s the only time of year I recall hearing revellers on the streets late into the evening. There will be special cherry blossom flavoured delicacies to eat, and exquisitely embroidered kimonos brought out.

After the main cherry breed (somei Yoshino) of pale pink 5
petalled flowers has finished, thankfully that’s not quite the end.  

There are special excursions by coach to view the slightly later wild cherry blossoms on the steep mountainsides of Japan.  You will hear high-pitched squeals of “kirei, kirei, kirei” (beautiful) over and over again, and cannot begin to imagine the billions of photos taken every year!  It’s nicer to take a quiet hike in the hills around Tokyo, though you’re unlikely to be alone.

And then there are the yaezakura – heavier double headed
blossoms – which appear a little later, for example,  in the Imperial Palace grounds, to be viewed by a select few in the presence of the Emperor. Barring strong winds or torrential rain, it all ends with beautiful carpets of petals underfoot.  
You might feel a little poetic yourself at the sight!  

If you are planning a trip to Japan this is a good place to start researching a holiday there: https://www.japan.travel/en/uk/.

Also pop in to Japan House on High Street Kensington, where there is a staffed travel desk and lots of brochures to take away, as well as a beautiful Japanese toilet experience down in the basement! And go upstairs for delicious but expensive noodles (research).

With thanks to my friend Rachael who lived in Japan for 10 years and wrote this for us.

Enjoy the rest of your day.

Lisa & Bex

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