Saturday, April 21, 2012

A celebration of Sakura and Hanami in Japan

Welcome to Japan and the amazing spectacle of the sakura season
Hanami, (lit. "flower viewing") is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers. "Flower" in this case almost always meaning cherry blossoms. This photo was taken by the river in Kyoto
Daniela and I were in Japan from 31 March to 15 April. We were lucky to get the full Hanami experience. This was taken at Kiyomizudera Temple in Kyoto
A canal in Kyoto. The Japanese not only have a lot of cherry blossom trees, they know exactly where to put them
Canals, bridges, rivers are favourite places
The blossom forecast (桜前線 sakura-zensen literally cherry blossom front) is announced each year by the weather bureau
The custom of hanami was originally limited to the elite of the Imperial Court, but soon spread to samurai society and, by the Edo period, to the common people as well
White sakura against a dark background is striking
In the late afternoon the cherry blossom can be partly in the shade and partly lit up by the sun...
...This also creates a beautiful contrast
Of course, a beautiful blue sky is the traditional background...
...and it works a treat!
The sheer numbers of blossoms is spectacular
Maruyama Park (円山公園, Maruyama Kōen) is a public park in Kyoto. It is the most popular place for Hanami in Kyoto. The centrepiece of the park is a very old shidarezakura (weeping cherry tree)
It is illuminated at night. I took over a 100 photos of this beautiful shidarezakura as the sun set in the park
Another place where cherry blossom is beautifully situated is near temples and in the temple gardens
Reaching out
Another beautiful shidarezakura. It needs a lot of support
Some individual blooms
Near Kita-Kamakura, a 50 minute train journey from Tokyo
Hanami in Maruyama park, Kyoto
This is along a hiking trail from Kita-Kamakura to Kamakura
Beautifully illuminated. In Japan, cherry blossoms also symbolize clouds due to their nature of blooming en masse
A perfect couple. Sakura is an enduring metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life, which is central to the Buddhist understanding of impermanence. This is the second biggest Buddha (Amida Buddha) in Japan. It is in Kamakura at Kōtoku-in.
He is 13.35 meters tall
There seems to be more white cherry blossom than pink, at least in the places we visited

The most popular variety of cherry blossom in Japan is the Somei Yoshino. Its flowers are nearly pure white, tinged with the palest pink, especially near the stem
The famous walkway of cherry blossom trees leading to the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū temple in Kamakura

Every year the Japanese Meteorological Agency and the public track the sakura zensen (cherry blossom front) as it moves northward up the archipelago via nightly forecasts
 A pool of water in Kamakura provided this opportunity
Light and shadow 
Blue, white and green. Isn't nature wonderful!
In the temple gardens of Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū
Along the Philosopher's walk in Kyoto
Further along the walk is this fabulous tree which adorns the building
The pedestrian avenue in Kamakura taken from the hill on which stands Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū
Our last evening in Tokyo. The blossom is falling and the season is nearly over here. It is raining petals! The Sakura season is such a happy and beautiful time. I wonder if the Japanese suffer from post Sakura depression. Our holiday in Japan was very special. I will be uploading more posts on this beautiful and fascinating country in the weeks to come