Posted by TOKYO MATCHA SELECTION - Chris Young (living in UK) on March 31, 2018
Cherry blossom, or 'sakura', is an important flower in Japan. To mark its brief appearance each year, Japanese people hold flower-viewing parties and enjoy sakura-themed foods. You know it's spring in Japan when everything turns pink! As sakura season 2018 approaches, we bring you everything you need to know about this magical time of year.
The Arrival of Spring
Spring in Japan begins with a fantastic natural spectacle. From late March to early May, a wave of pink cherry blossom sweeps the nation from southwest to northeast. The sight of these delicate flowers raining from the cherry trees’ black branches is so admired in Japan that vast swathes of cherry trees have been planted over the years. Consequently, some consider the cherry blossom to be Japan's unofficial national flower. For many Japanese, it figures more strongly in the imagination than the imperial chrysanthemum.
Cherry Blossom Viewing or 'Hanami'
As temperatures slowly begin to rise, Japanese people watch the sakura forecast for their region with great attention. As the peak date approaches, they finalize their plans for the annual flower-viewing parties. This tradition, known as 'hanami', is enthusiastically observed. In parks and gardens throughout Japan, families, friends and colleagues gather for the annual picnic beneath the cherry trees.
If you are the most junior member of a Japanese company when the appointed day arrives, you will probably be sent to reserve the best picnic spot for your colleagues several hours in advance. This might seem like an excuse to slack off for an afternoon, but it is in fact a very serious duty. Hanami is, after all, one of the highlights of the Japanese social calendar.
The appreciation of cherry blossom is deeply connected to Shinto philosophy. Like many spring traditions, hanami parties celebrate the joy of nature’s renewal. Even for modern, urban Japanese, the moment is more than symbolic. Spring in Japan aligns with both the start of the fiscal year and the beginning of the school year. It is therefore an exciting time, particularly for students and new graduates.
Cherry blossoms are undeniably beautiful. But they are also delicate and fleeting. This ‘flaw’ makes them a natural friend of wabi-sabi, the aesthetic world view which shaped the Japanese tea ceremony[https://www.tokyo-matcha-selection.com/blog/brief-history-of-the-japanese-tea-ceremony/], among other things. From the perspective of wabi-sabi, sakura season is a symbol of life’s brevity. Far from being depressing, however, this only strengthens its association with conviviality. Indeed, Japanese people see the magical, short-lived flowers as a reminder to treasure their relationships in the here and now.
Everything is Pink!
Naturally, cherry blossom has found its way into many springtime foods and drinks - and not just by floating into it during picnics! Spring in Japan means sakura-flavoured sweets, sakura-coloured rice and even sakura 'tea'. This unusual beverage is not sweet as you might imagine; it is actually made with preserved, salted cherry blossoms.
If you can't get to Japan in time for sakura season 2018, why not let a taste of spring in Japan come to you?
[Product pictures with links]