April 10, 2010

Hanami = Spring + Love

Here in Japan there may be gray clouds covering the skies, but the temperature is rising daily, the sun pokes its head out between them occasionally, it still rains about once a week, and that can mean only one thing; Spring is here. According to the calendar and local festivals, Spring is here. But when you look outside and see everyone in their Winter gear, one would think that this is more like a San Francisco Spring. But the real authorities on Spring have announced it has arrived, and they are never wrong. The Cherry Blossoms have started to bloom all across Japan and when they appear, no matter what the weather is, Spring is here.
As the Cherry Blossoms start to spread across Japan, so do the Hanami parties. Hanami literally translates into “flower viewing”, and it has a long history in Japan. The custom of viewing and of admiring the flower blossoms that arrive in the beginning of Spring, started around the 700's. At the time this was just not limited to just the Cherry Blossoms but also the Plum Blossoms (Ume, 梅). Though both flowers would attract followers, the Cherry Blossom would forever be associated with Hanami, thanks to “The Tale of Genji”. The idea of viewing the Cherry Blossoms being complemented with a party was first mentioned in print in the “The Tale of Genji”, and this combination of flower viewing, parties, and Cherry Blossoms would forever change Japan.
The feasts held under the trees were first just held by royalty, who would hold lavish viewing parties with large banquets. This would later spread to the Samurais of Japan who would copy this new tradition. And, finally later, Tokugawa Yoshimune, would help spread this tradition to all the people in Japan by planting trees all over Japan. This act of kindness was his encouragement that all in Japan should be allowed to enjoy such an elegant and beautiful tradition.
This would turn into so much more than people sitting under the trees, enjoying the flowers, each others company, and the coming of Spring. The blossoms also marked it was time to start planting the rice, so the trees were believed to have gods living in them, and so people would make offerings to the trees. These offerings would be the hopes for a good harvest, but over time the offerings made would become the people drinking Sake and having picnics as an offering.
Today the tradition continues, stronger than ever. On every type of media you can hear or read about when the blossoms are expected to arrive in your local area or anywhere in Japan. In the larger populated areas of Japan, like Yoyogi park in Tokyo, you can find literally thousands of people having picnics, parties, music, dancing and so much more under the trees. In the countryside it is a little more calmer and mostly people just travel to special areas where the trees are most beautiful and enjoy the flowers. There are still picnics being held, but usually a lot more quietly. Temples and shrines will have viewings that are sometimes the best places to visit, because the trees are purposefully pruned and planted to enhance the beauty of the local area.
So why am I telling you this? For starters, Spring time is by far the best time to visit Japan and that special someone that you have met through Meet Japan Lady. Not only is the weather perfect, but to show your future partner that you are serious and maybe slightly romantic, take her to see the Cherry Blossoms. Even in other countries this is possible and such a special experience for her and yourself can happen anywhere. Show her that you care about her traditions and where she comes from, with this special event. It's very easy to find a nice quiet and extremely beautiful spot to view the trees, while sharing a nice quiet picnic lunch with your future partner. This is a great time to talk, share your feelings, and future ambitions in an atmosphere that you both will enjoy.
The Cherry Blossoms are blooming, so Love is in the air. Don't miss such a wonderful experience for yourself and future partner.

Schedule for the trees...

Where some of the places throughout Japan are to view the trees...

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