Japan: Sakura (Cherry Blossom) Season
One of the special joys of Japan is “Sakura” or Cherry Blossom season which begins around the end of March and lasts for approximately two weeks. So, we traveled to Japan on March 14 for this reason. When we arrived in Tokyo and Yokohama, the cherry trees were not in bloom yet. There's a window of about a month between March and April when the flowers will start to bloom. Sakura are traditionally planted in shrines and temples, and castle grounds. So, we took excursions to places said to be the top viewing spots like Himeji Castle and Fuji Five Lakes. We spotted a few plum blossoms of dark pink color at Himeji Castle and Gardens, but the cherry trees were not in bloom yet.
Our guide to Himeji Castle and Fujisan reminded us not to worry if we had not spotted Sakura during our first week in Japan. It’s hard to miss Sakura because it makes the headline news in Japan before any bad economic and political news. Sakura is very important to the Japanese culture. Traditionally, the Japanese believed that the cherry blossom represents the fragility and the beauty of life and that every blossom is a reminder that life can be short. It’s a time associated with the end of one chapter and the opening of the next like graduation.
I may have missed taking a picture in the most atmospheric place with Mount Fuji in the background. But Sakura was in bloom when we arrived in Sakaiminato, Tottori. So, I was able to capture some pink blossoms with Mt. Daisen in the background, the 2nd highest mountain in Japan. There are more than 600 species of Sakura trees and 10 most common including Yamazakura, Edohigan and Oshimazakura. The most prominent colors are light pink and white.
It was not until we reached Kagoshima that I saw Sakura in full splendor. We were in Chiran, a small town in Kagoshima and famous for the Samurai houses. The white cherry blossoms en masse were a remarkable sight. I began to understand why sakura (cherry blossoms) symbolize clouds and being a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life.
At the end of the road that was covered in canopy of white cherry blossoms were a bunch of kids getting ready to play baseball – a sign of spring indeed.
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