A Tradition That Leaves the World Awestruck
The Japanese tradition of “hanami” continues to be celebrated during the cherry blossom season; an event that resembles pure fantasy.
Every January, as in a swell, Japanese cherry trees blossom in Okinawa, make their way through Kyoto and Tokyo, and finally arrive in Hokkaido in March. The sakura season crosses the archipelago from south to north, and it brings along the ancient practice of hanami, which refers to the tradition of picnicking under a blossoming cherry tree.
The practice was originally limited to the Imperial Court’s elite, but soon made its way to the samurai society, and by the Edo period the population at large had adopted it. During their short blooming season, the sakura’s petals fall as white foam covering avenues, parks and the people who gather beneath them to celebrate their beauty. Families, groups of friends, workers, children and even the homeless can be seen in Tokyo’s Ueno park (one of the locals’ favorite spots), contemplating the environmental treasure.
The importance of hanami is the —almost forgotten— awe that is born from meticulous observation. Those who make their way to this appointment are fully aware of the metaphysical relationship that exists between the impermanent beauty of the trees and human existence.
For the Japanese, the cherry blossom season is appropriately understood as the transience of life on Earth. When the sun sets, hundreds of youngsters pull out their cameras or smartphones and take flash photographs of the branches against the blackness, which they then immediately upload to the internet to eagerly share the aesthetic experience ad infinitum. During the sakura season, contemplation becomes conservation.
The trees will always be healthy because in Japan beauty is considered an end in and of itself, and nobody thinks it is odd when a citizen stops whatever he or she is doing to take a sakura branch and inhale its ever so slight aroma. Thus, the importance of botanical appreciation becomes a political act; hanami is a combination of cultural information, aestheticism and the preservation of environment.
Hanami is one of the few popular celebrations that still retain its innocence to this day, and we can be sure that it is one of the most pervasive and oneiric communal experiences there are. By strengthening our environmental values, the sakura is also a reminder that we are the environment. We are the symbiosis of our surroundings. And whoever witnesses hanami at some point in their lives will realize that, beyond the impermanence of the white and pink foam, the experience is perpetual.
When we stand before the possibility of making an appointment to visit the sakura, we are undoubtedly facing one of the most delightful excuses to embark on a journey: to pursue subtle and ephemeral flower carpets.
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