Japanese Cherry Blossom Trail, Part Three: Spring-Shades and Candy-Lit Tokyo.


“And so the spring buds burst, and so I gaze,
And so the blossoms fall, and so my days ...”
Uejima Onitsura



Tokyo Mid-Town



Our final destination in the Japanese Cherry Blossom Trail is the country’s capital, Tokyo. Here we get glimpses of nature’s cheery transformation after a monochrome-skied winter. It’s a gift that is in abundance for all, for the haves and have-nots, for all ethnicities, races, colours, genders, and ages. A gift that speaks in the language of flowers. Spring.


The Japanese Cherry Blossom Trail

For the locals, the cherry blossom season is a special time of the year. The cherry flowers are also known as sakura in Japan, meaning ‘sacred flower’. For the Japanese, the sakura is an unspoken symbol of appreciation, and in this post, I will focus more on the spring flowers rather than about metropolitan city itself.

By the way, I have included some extracts from Parts One and Two here, in case you have missed them.


Roppongi and Tokyo Mid-town


During our visit, we stayed in the famous Roppongi district. Who? Me? At Roppongi? Yep, I received many raised eyebrow reactions when I mentioned this to my friends.


A walk in spring


Well, Roppongi is noted as the nightlife district of Tokyo. It is known for its foreigner-friendly bars and restaurants. I am not exactly a late-night explorer (plus, I was doped up on anti-allergy medication for hay fever…), so I missed out on seeing the neon lights and night-time activities. I wasn’t too disappointed, though, because I woke up early to the sights of beautiful dew-filled, low-hanging, pink-blossom clouds. The enchanting pictures in this post are from the surrounding neighbourhoods of Roppongi,  Mid-Town, Roppongi Hills, Shiroyama Garden, Izumi Garden, and ARK Hills.


A serene cherry-lit pond

Apart from being the centre of nightlife, Roppongi is also home to many foreign embassies, so you’d feel safe (or should I say even safer) walking along these streets.


Spring-shades 


Mid-Town, which was just a few hundred meters away from our hotel, was recently opened in 2007. Mid-Town is essentially a city within the city. There are plenty of commercial, residential, and entertainment facilities located in the neighbourhood, making it easy to access everything you need without having to leave the area.



Around Roppongi neighbourhood


I am sure you would recognise the leading brands in Roppongi, such as the Mori Building Company, The Pokémon Company, Fuji Xerox, Google Japan, Yahoo Japan, and Ritz Carlton.



Hanami (and coffee) at Tokyo Mid-Town


In the picture below, you will notice people picnicking and having drinks with their eyes gazing at the blossom-filled landscape. All were awestruck and silent. I was too. This activity of just picnicking under the cherry blossoms is a centuries-old practice known as Hanami.


Silent admiration. That's a Mount Fuji replica, in case you missed the real one.


What is the Cherry Blossom?



In very few words, it’s a flower grown on trees. But it’s no ordinary flower. It symbolises friendship and peace. It also expresses a time of renewal and the fleeting nature of life. It’s also the national flower of Japan.

Interestingly, all cherry trees produce a small number of edible cherries. The trees are of genus Prunus—the family of plums, apricot and peaches. They are also known as Ume trees.

Spring, spring, spring shades

There is a wide variety of cherry blossom species and hybrids today, and the most popular one in Japan is Somei Yoshino. Each species produces a unique bloom, creating a variety of cherry flower sizes, colours, thicknesses, shapes, and fragrances.


What is the Cherry Blossom Season?


Just as the name suggests, this is the season when the cherry flowers (sakura) bloom. This happens only for a short period, usually starting in late March and ending in early April. Having said this, I also learnt that cherry flowers also blossom in the autumn months. So, there is more than one opportunity to see cherry flowers in the year.
Colour me sweet

When is the (Spring) Cherry Blossom Season in Japan?


It’s in the spring months of March and April. The weather cannot be predicted, so when planning a trip, it’s good to pad in a couple more days before and after the forecasted dates.


Speed of the blossom .... just like at a race track


Just cross-check your travel itinerary with the latest Sakura Calendar issued by Japanese Meteorological Agency. It captures the cherry blossom stages and dates by region and comes in handy when deciding on your cherry blossom plans. This calendar sure makes planning so much easier, don’t you agree?

Here are the forecasted dates for all major cities in 2019.


According to the dates shown, the full bloom forecast in Tokyo was on 27 March 2019. If you want to take part in this local celebration of confetti but missed out on it, don’t fret. You are not at all late for the next one!
  

Winter sakura, on the other hand, start blooming in autumn and continue to bloom sporadically throughout the winter. Even if you miss that, there is always next spring! Unfortunately, I do not have the calendar for the winter sakura.

Near the hotel

How Long is the Cherry Blossom Season in Japan?


In addition to buffering in a few additional days before and after your trip, do take note that these cotton-candy flowers can only be sighted for a short while. There’s only about two weeks between when the buds form to when they drop off. Stay longer if you wish to see the full progression.


Fairyland

Do you notice the fallen petals on the grass? When I first saw them, I thought the grass was covered in frosted ice!


Frosted ice? I don't think so, just the fallen spring petals

When more petals start to fall, they form a lovely carpet of snow-white petals. It begins to get a little sad, but as long as there is the sun, there will be another season. A renewal of hope, as they say.

What are the Stages of the Flower Formation?


The flowers bloom in six stages. As the blooming progresses over several days, you can experience different ambiances that generate a different aura for each person witnessing the trees’ beauty. To understand the stages better, here is the countdown:
  • Stage 1—The formation of green buds indicating the arrival of spring.
  • Stage 2—Florets become visible. This usually happens 14 days prior the peak bloom. Here is when the countdown begins.
  • Stage 3—The florets are extended. This is usually 12 days before the peak bloom.
  • Stage 4—Flower stems can be noticed. This is often six days before the peak bloom.
  • Stage 5—Fluffy white/pink/red flowers are formed. This is usually on days 10 and 11.
  • Stage 6—The peak! At this point, almost 70% of the blossoms have bloomed. 


Where Else Can We See Cherry Blossoms?


If you are not able to go to Japan, do not fret. These delicate flowers can be found in many other counties. Japan has given the sakura to many countries as gifts. Today, sakura can be found all over the world, especially in temperate zones (such as in the US, Germany, Netherlands, Nepal, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, New Zealand, and Australia). It’s easier than ever to see the glory of these flowers!

Here is a list I have gathered of all the places you can go to see these magnificent blossoms. Do let me know if I have missed out your country. I will add them in. After all, the flowering season is for everyone!
  
Have I listed your place?


What Do You Do During Cherry Blossom Season?

  • Hanami. This is the tradition of welcoming the spring. Just sit, take a walk, relax, read, or sip a drink amongst the gentle, fluffy petals. Take it all in. For me, this was a humbling experience and quiet appreciation of scent and colours.

Now its time for coffee (and wine).  RD 's coffee with some Tokyo blossoms

  • Create a Yearly Sakura Album or Journal. Capture photos of blooms every day, from the time the buds say hello until the time the petals say goodbye. The sakura is a sacred flower, and so this activity is widespread among the locals. Did you notice the cell phones pointing to the flowers?

Snap away

  • Snap away. Well, thank God for digital cameras; otherwise, I would have to spend a fortune for the Kodaks, and so would this gentleman here. His model was his car, and the studio setting was the empty, spring-pastel-shaded street. I wanted a mugshot with the car but got a bit too tongue-tied to request. Remember what Kobayashi Issa, the Japanese poet, said? ‘In the cherry blossoms’ shade, there's no such thing as a stranger.’ That is almost true. Look—I took a picture of him and his car instead. (His face and car plate have been blurred off for privacy reasons.)
Smile, you are on candid camera

And then, of me, away from that handsome car. That is my car … in my dreams.

Hello again


  • Admire the flowers during the day and night. At night, these wonders look like rain clouds under the moonlight.

When night falls on the blossoms ....


Towards the end of the season, the petals form on a snow-like carpet—the confetti of spring. I always thought fairyland was something just in my head. After seeing cherry blossoms in Tokyo, I know such magical places exist. It’s time to trust your instincts again, hear that voice, even if it’s a call from Peter Pan.

Did you hear that?  Peter Pan?

Henry Ward wrote ‘Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made and forgot to put a soul in to’. But under the sky of flowers, I felt the soul of the cherry blossoms as they whispered to each other.


The soul of the flowers


I am filled with a little sadness as I end this article. So, I decided to do what I do best—counting those hopeful stars … Counting Stars, Reaching Delphi. I know there will be another pretty spring soon. I am bugged by the spring shades.

Counting those hopeful stars ... Reaching Delphi








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