Anyone remotely interested in Japan, or fans of anime are aware of how loved Sakura (cherry blossom) season is! Just googling “sakura” will bring up countless images of beautiful trees raining pearly white petals, stories of friends having hanami (picnics and parties under the trees) or scenes from shows where students arrive to school in an almost ethereal, romantic haze.
I knew it was a big deal when people were asking me if I were excited – but I didn’t realise it was this big. I was pointed to websites predicting when the trees would bloom, and was surrounded by chatter and excitement when the buds began to appear. People in Japan, and even tourists from abroad carefully plan in advance the perfect time to come and experience it and I hear it’s extremely disappointing to miss it. I guess I am truly lucky to be living here right now!
Sadly, my school doesn’t have many trees around due to repair work nearby – but there have been plenty of trees elsewhere for me to enjoy!
Here’s how I have enjoyed my very first Sakura season in Japan!
I live in a beautiful area surrounded by nature and traditional looking buildings, but am still conveniently located around useful shops and stations. So, so far I have been able to enjoy a blazing summer, a gentle fall and a bitterly cold winter. I’ll write about the seasons another time, as they deserve a post of their own. But to my excitement, I woke up on Thursday to look out the window and see the trees had blossomed! I have been so lucky that every morning this Sakura season, I have been able to wake up to this.
My very first Hanami was spent in a rather special way – on a beautiful little wooden boat, being paddled down canals drinking Asahi beer from their special Sakura packaging! This was so relaxing, we even stopped at a “Sail-thru” and grabbed more beer along the way! And our captain (I guess there must be a more accurate term for this?!) sang traditional Japanese songs for us all along the way. It was truly magical.
When there are special events or festivities, pretty much every store and major brand will have some kind of promotional item to celebrate. I love this – it has introduced so many new foods and drink to me!
Yesterday at work, a lovely lady bought me Sakura mochi from 7-11 (北海道産小豆使用つぶあんの). They are filled with adzuki (red bean paste) and the pink mochi is made using actual Sakura and rice, wrapped in a Sakura leaf. It smells amazingly fresh and tasted delicious.
Sakura at night
Viewing Sakura at night, or ‘よざくら’ is a really beautiful way to see the blossoms in another way too! A friend and her family took me to see one of the oldest trees in the Kyushu region be lit up at night (it even had a little count down!) and then went over to a park to have Hanami with Indian snacks and beer! It was so beautiful, and every so often a little petal would float down while we were talking!
Sakura is truly beautiful and a symbolic event in Japan. For my students, it signals a fresh new year, as unlike in the West school here begins in April. So although it’ll be a grueling and busy year ahead – it is welcomed with the fleeting beauty of the Sakura trees.
For me, I am just glad to see the back of what seemed like an endless, bitter Winter that I feared was what the Stark family was warning us about all along. At least, Spring has arrived in the most beautiful way – and I have been thoroughly enjoying all of the festivities that come with it.