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Hanami, "Cherry Blossom Viewing"
The Japanese tradition of cherry blossom viewing just around the corner
Genevieve Long, The Epoch Times
3/22/2005

Every year there is a magical moment in the life of springtime when the cherry blossoms come to life and put on their best pink for the world to see. This brief encounter with the delicate and enchanting blossoms heralds the true arrival of spring.

In Japan, the cherry blossom or sakura is almost a mythical social phenomenon. From late February to the end of April, you can see cherry blossoms waxing and waning on the many varieties of cherry trees that grace parks and boulevards, campuses and front yards. People plan special excursions during this time of year just to catch a glimpse of the delicate blooms—it is not enough to just see them in passing.

The tradition of hanami or “cherry blossom viewing” has its roots in ancient Japanese culture. In 812 A.D., Japan’s capital city was moved to Kyoto by the Saga emperor, who began the tradition of hanami.

It has held until modern times, and during the peak month of April, you will find large and small groups of friends, coworkers, families and random mixes of people in the parks of major cities such as Tokyo gathered under trees eating, singing and talking over a beer.

Coming out for hanami is more than an excuse to get together with people and have a picnic under a tree in the warm spring air. In the Japanese mind, it is also a time to reflect on the fleeting and delicate nature of beauty, and to seek out this beauty in the cherry blossoms.

This search for the beauty of the cherry blossom is expressed most subtly and aptly in the form of the three stanza Japanese poem, haiku. Shigeru Awagi, a professor at Miyazaki Women’s College in Japan says that, “People look for something deep in the sakura. After the Edo period, the Japanese people loved to view cherry blossoms on their holidays. This is the basis of the Japanese concept of cherry blossoms in Haiku. Haiku is a search for the beauty, falling, purity and spirit of cherry blossoms’ inner part.”

The Japanese poet-priest Saigyo (1118-90) said in a poem about cherry blossoms:

Sleeping under the trees on Yoshino mountain
The spring breeze wearing Cherry blossom petals.

If you are in Japan from now through the end of April, take the time to participate in the ancient Japanese tradition of cherry blossom viewing. Fall asleep under the gentle hush of the soft pink as spring dances into the world. It is an experience that no visitor to Japan can easily forget, and it is a window to the Japanese spirit of the search for perfection and beauty.

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