OK I understand now, sakura blossoms are beautiful

Japanese cherry blossoms, or sakura, are famous. They’re known for their beauty, delicacy, and limited lifespan. Even the Japanese go ga-ga for their sakura and they see them every year. And in animes, mangas, etc., they symbolize romance, beauty, wistful reminescence…

Oh, being with your love under the sakura blossoms...
But I get it now, Japan. I understand, because damn those sakura blossoms are beautiful. And the petals really do float on the wind when there’s a breeze. And they are oh so picturesque. Where before I wondered if sakura could really be all that, now, I nod in agreement. Seeing parks full of sakura really is breath-taking.

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 When the sakura bloom, that also means it’s time for hanami, or the custom of picnicing under the sakura trees. Apparently this practice is centuries old — and it’s still very popular today. Well, I wasn’t going to be left out. I mean, when you talk traditional Japanese stuff to do, hanami invariably comes up. First year in Japan? Of course I was going to a hanami! So, a couple Saturdays ago, when the weather was particularly fine, I packed a tarp, snacks, water bottles, and my digital camera into my backpack and headed out for Shizuoka-shi, the capitol. Supposedly there was a hanami in the park.

Unfortunately, there was also a cold snap a couple days previously, so the sakura were limited. I still got some beautiful photographs, though. And I sat outside in the warm sunshine and the soft breeze enjoying the afternoon before, three hours later when I started falling asleep on my tarp and people were beginning to pack up, I meandered to Starbucks for coffee (just in case I risked forgetting about America 😉 ). After some coffee and people watching, I meandered back home.

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When the weather is good in Japan…it’s good. As in, “Why the hell should I stay inside when it’s so beautiful outside?” good. As in looking-out-the-window-and-seeing-the-beautiful-weather-and-not-being-in-it-is-almost-painful good.

A few days later, I was told by my supervisor that the park nearby had sakura blooming and it was very beautiful. But who knew how long they would last? She suggested I go on my lunch break.

Hold on, there are sakura in that park? And it’s close enough to eat lunch there? I was so there!

I walked over to the park during lunch break, digital camera and conbini lunch (sesame salad, yum!) in hand. And she wasn’t exaggerating. The sakura were fully in bloom and it was amazing. It may have topped the Shizuoka sakura. I took pictures like I had a repetitive twitch.

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The weather was perfect. After taking some snaps, I sat on a bench and ate my lunch. At the edge of the sakura trees, where the lawn was, mothers had brought their children for impromptu hanamis, so that was my background noise. In front of me was the large shrine of the area. Paper lanterns decorated the walkway, floating above me, proclaiming the sakura season. This may have been one of the best lunches I’ve ever had. You can imagine how reluctant I was to leave and go back to work.

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That was three days ago, and unfortunately sakura season in Fuji is over. Today, I woke up to gray, rainy skies. The rain will strip whatever sakura blossoms are left, exposing the fresh leaves underneath. But even without the rain, sakura is a finite phenomenon. Take the picture of the single sakura tree at school:

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A “perfectly blooming” sakura tree doesn’t show any green leaves. And this tree didn’t — the day before. I noticed the blooms on the way home, but the lighting kept me from getting a good picture. So, the next day I brought my digital camera and stopped to take a picture. The leaves, which hadn’t been there the day before, had appeared in just one night.

(Want to see tons more sakura pictures, because I wasn’t kidding when I said I took a lot? They’re uploaded to the Gallery!)

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