rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » News » Japan's cherry blossoms take our breath away

Japan's cherry blossoms take our breath away

Last updated on: April 03, 2018 11:16 IST

The flowers are a national symbol of Japan, and the annual display draws huge crowds -- and the attention of social media users. 

Photograph: Issei Kato/Reuters

Spring in Japan can only mean one thing: cherry blossom.

The country’s famous cherry blossoms made an early appearance in Tokyo this year, and have now reached full bloom, a sure sign of springtime.

Crowds have gathered throughout the nation’s capital to appreciate the picturesque flowers for the short time they’ll remain in bloom.

And for those who can’t see the wonderful blossoms in person, don’t fret, we have you covered.

 

Photograph: Issei Kato/Reuters

Cherry blossoms in Japan are known as sakura. It is said that until the Nara Period (710-794), the nation’s most favourite flower was ume (Japanese apricot), most likely because of a strong cultural influence at that time from China, where ume originated.

But in the Heian Period (794-1185), sakura became more popular among Japanese aristocrats.

Photograph: Toru Hanai/Reuters

Today, it is de rigueur to head out into the local parks and gardens, bring a selection of picnic food and drinks and join the locals for a hanami or “flower-viewing”. It is during this period that the Japanese are at their most relaxed, and all public places take on a party-like atmosphere.

The cherry blossom usually begins to bloom in Okinawa in around January/February, passes through the middle of Japan in March and April, and finishes with a late bloom in northern Hokkaido in May.

Photograph: Issei Kato/Reuters

In ancient Japan, cherry blossom had great importance because it announced the rice-planting season and was used to divine the year’s harvest. Its fleeting beauty, moreover, was celebrated as a metaphor for life itself - and it was praised in numerous poems of the era.

Such was its significance that the Japanese believed the sakura trees contained spirits, and made offerings to them with rice wine.

Photograph: Issei Kato/Reuters

Cherry blossoms, however, today aren’t only limited to Japan.

Each year, the American capital, Washington, DC, celebrates the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The flowering period takes place from March 20 – April 15.

The annual event commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC. The gift and annual celebration honour the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan and the continued close relationship between the two countries.

Photograph: Toru Hanai/Reuters

The festival welcomes more than 1.5 million people to enjoy diverse programming and the trees.

In London too, a fundraising project aimed at planting 1,000 cherry trees across parks in Britain -- meant as a symbol of bilateral friendship -- is about to begin.

Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

The project has been organised by Japanese individuals and companies in both countries who hope initially to plant between 50 and 60 of the iconic Japanese trees across four major parks in London next autumn, followed by a commemorative ceremony in spring 2020, the year when Tokyo will host the Olympics and Paralympics.

AGENCIES