It's time for 'Hanami'
Anmona Handique- Mahanta
Festivals have always been a significant aspect of culture of every country and every festival has its own way of celebration based on the customs and traditions. And in Japan, it is the distinct seasons, that plays the role of seasonal events, accompanied by festivals and celebrations that are held year after year. In spring, it is the Cherry Blossoms flooding the streets with blooming baby pink tints while it’s the maple leaves or Momiji during the autumn season which gets the country dyed with vibrant red, orange and mesmerizing yellow hues. Both the seasons carry their fleeting beauty where ‘cherry blossoms’ and ‘Momiji’ are one of the prestigious symbolic events that represent the dynamic Japanese culture and its heritage.
And today, as spring has already arrived, I would like to pen down my thoughts giving a small glimpse on the beauty of Cherry Blossom of Japan that has started painting the streets with its vibrant charisma, ushering new hopes and bringing the zeal.
In the entire year, Japan is bestowed with many seasonal National flowers, iconic plants and other blooms like Plum (Ume) blossoms, but the warmth of Sakura/ Cherry Blossom, has always been luring with its magnificent aura and its flawless charm. Sakura is the most common and popular Japanese Cherry Tree found across the country and so Cherry Blossom is mostly known by the word Sakura in Japanese.
Typically, the trees start blooming usually from mid-March to early April. However, different places here have different Sakura timings and the forecast matters on various factors like temperature, past data etc. It is said that places that experience too cold winters usually experience late blossoms and sometimes it starts late March and stays till mid-April. However, the common period is mainly mid-March to mid-April, where the trees wear the best colors. The forecast is usually read by the Japan Meteorological Corporation. There are various spots to view Sakura and it could go beyond 1000 locations across the country, if one wants to know about a perfect Sakura spot (Source-Internet). So, usually it is with the help of Google, one can read and review about the best places.
The columnist with view of Cherries in full bloom on her back
Japanese eagerly waits for this period of marvelous blooms where locals and tourists swarm the cherry blossom spots in parks and gardens, view and enjoy the blooming landscape known as ‘hanami’ in Japanese, where ‘hana’ means flower and ‘mi’ means to see. So, precisely, Hanami means flower watching which is a traditional Japanese custom that dates back to thousands of years where the transient beauty of seasonal blooms was enjoyed and watched by the aristocrats as a symbol of custom which made them create poetries or Haikus then (Source-Internet). In fact, it is also said that the very concept of Hanami became sacred for earlier it was believed that deities remained enshrined in this Sakura trees and during cherry blossoms farmers worshipped them for harvest.
And with time, Sakura season has been the much-awaited season for all and is still honored today. During Hanami, people usually stroll under the cheerfully shaggy cherry trees, eat and spend time with families, children and beautiful couples have the most romantic times enjoying the spectacular endowment of Nature that has never failed to arrive on time and had always reborn into a place with splendor and serendipity. People spend the whole day taking photographs, relaxing under the trees by lying down or having a good talk, eating, drinking just like a day trip far from the city life and just to enjoy every spell of Nature’s fleeting blossoms. I say the word fleeting, because, Sakura or Cherry Blossom last hardly for a span of about 12-14 days and so are short-lived where the blooms are usually seen at its peak in the latter half of the weeks.
View of the Gozo River, Iwakura
Well! One of the best parts of this blossoms is the O’ Hanami festival, also commonly known as the Cherry Blossom festival that is held every year. But unfortunately, the novel Corona virus has been the spoilsport since 2020. Yes, I remember, last year it was just a few days before the Emergency declaration of the Covid-19 outbreak, where somehow got to visit and enjoy Cherry Blossom at a place called Iwakura. Gladly, my first Sakura live encounter. And for the pandemic disaster, we missed the O’ Hanami festival, as all festivals were closed down by the authorities for the outbreak. But still, I feel blessed and I can still sink into the sweet memories experiencing Sakura for the first time in life. The moments were too precious and words can never express my feelings when I first saw the tinge of pink landscapes, flowery branches hanging low from the giant trees and not one or two but there were 40-50 of Cherry trees lined up in a row, besides the breezy Gojo river, a combination of greenery and faded pink hues by a riverside. Indeed, it was just a breathtaking view with so much freshness in the air, a scintillating atmosphere and abundance of nature.
The traditional beauty of the Hanami festival has always been cherished and celebrated by the Japanese much like the other seasonal festivals. So, what exactly people do during the Hanami festival? It is an annual festival of Sakura and the spring season. Families and friend's get-together and gather around the Sakura trees enjoying food and drinks accompanied by delicious pastries, flavored drinks made of Sakura flower. It is mostly to savor the delicacies while watching the beautiful pink blossoms and admiring the gently flowing petals from the trees on their full blooms. It quite resembles picnicking under the abundance of Nature and its spellbound creation. Hanami festival is one of the most endeared events of Japan and the whole country yearn for this seasonal beauty. And something that is remarkable about this festival is that people coming to celebrate Hanami not only carries their favorite food and drinks or buys from the food stalls of the concerned places but diligently follow the rules of the particular park or garden or of the concerned place. Families or people carry their own picnic sheets, garbage bags, papers napkins, towels, tissues, disposables and so on. And interestingly, no matter a thousand family have come and enjoyed the whole day, not a single piece of paper would be seen lying on the ground. Yes, it is that tidy even after Hanami party is over.
Night view of Cherry Blossom at Nabana-no-Sato, Mie Prefecture
Another best part of Cherry blossom is its extraordinary view at night where major cherry blossom viewing spots lit up the cherry trees that turns the entire view just so magical and dreamy. This time, luckily, could visit one of such spots known as Nabana-no-Sato which is one of the largest flower gardens in Japan, and got to view the magical side of this amazing creations of Nature. This place is also famous it holds one of the largest illuminations in the entire country that is worth a visit.
Night view of Cherry Blossom at Nabana-no-Sato
Hence, the spring season, has been always one of the most beautiful seasons to be celebrated and admired and so does the ever-enchanting beauty of Sakura.
[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily
reflect the opinions of the Publisher.]