The Sakura tree (cherry tree) is one of the strongest symbols in Japan, it can be found in the 100¥ coins, poems, paintings, music, cloths, food, even Starbucks made a Sakura flavored coffee. It is a source of inspiration and a delight for Japanese people. It has been like this for centuries, and it will continue like this for many more generations.
Sakura trees last in full bloom only for a little longer than two weeks. For many it is a symbol of how beautiful and short life is, frequently compared to the life of the samurai (not very sure why the life of a samurai is beautiful though). Sakura season is also a season to say goodbye for students graduating from college who start a new life in their new job. Parents say goodbye to their sons and daughters as they become independent, many of them get reallocated to different cities as required by their new employers.
Short life and new life calls for celebration and certainly Japanese people know how to do it: drinking, eating and awesome Sakura decorations and illuminations. I call these two weeks the “Sakura madness”. They have a Sakura forecast that people follow very closely to find out when and where are the most beautiful Sakura trees in full bloom. The most popular areas will usually host Sakura festivals with street food stalls, people bring their picnic mat and enjoy the moment drinking and eating with friends and/or family. Many people wake up very early in the morning to “reserve” an space with their picnic mat and wait for their guests. This tradition is called “hanami”.
The famous “hanami” parties and Sakura festivals are definitely a must see and do. There are lots of popular places for hanami, the following are just a few that I covered this year: