Sakura City 桜の町

Sakura on Meguro River 目黒川の桜

Last month sakurano-hanami (桜の花見) or cherry blossom viewing season, swept Japan. This time of the year is a must see for anyone interested in visiting Japan and was the first time I got to experience this event. Of course, I expected to see lots of cherry blossoms in parks but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the streets of Tokyo are often lined with cherry trees. This brings a seasonal element to the entire city that is quite spectacular.

Sakura on Meguro River at Naka-Meguro 中目黒の桜

Cities in temperate climates like London also witness seasonal changes in their vegetation. The bare branches of winter give way to the greening of spring and summer, then the autumn hues and finally bare branches again with Christmas lights to close out each year. This happens so gradually though that it does not quite put on the show (except for maybe the festive lights which are in anycase artificial) that cherry blossoms perform for their brief two week annual existence.

Sakura in Otsuka 大塚の桜

During sakurano-hanami, the Japanese really make the most of it. This year, the event followed only shortly after the Great East Japan Earthquake (東日本大震災). I can’t compare the mood to previous years but I got the feeling this was the first time since the disaster that people felt there was something to enjoy. Meguro River this year was completely packed with revelers as the weather was particularly warm and sunny for cherry blossom viewing. Meguro River is one of Tokyo’s hemmed in waterways and in some sense acts as a sort of green corridor. Aside from breathing space like this though, cherry trees are everywhere in Tokyo but it is at places like this that sakurano-hanami is at its best.

Sakura in Myogadani 茗荷谷の桜

Japan’s feudal society often used the cherry blossom as a metaphor for the ideal life of a samurai: brief but stunningly beautiful.

Sakura in Minami-Ikebukuro 南池袋の桜

Sakura on Azuma-dori in Minami-Ikebukuro 南池袋の東通り

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