The cult of sakura is based on the notion that sakura blossoms are so fleeting that they must be cherished and enjoyed immediately, like life. Here today, gone tomorrow. Sorrow in joy. Be conscious of the moment with its splendor and its sadness. Live in the now.
It's Tuesday, April 2, and the absolute peak perfection of probably the most popular of the sakura tree varieties is this week, with huge parties planned for last weekend and the next. Today may be the height of perfection for certain trees along my usual route. I duly went out an admired them.
However, the season actually goes on for weeks.
First the Official Bloom Predictors (I can't remember the name, but there is truly such a body, I think connected with the national weather service) issue a prediction for when the blossoms are most likely to start and peak in different parts of the country. They are alarmingly accurate.
This prediction will be formally announced and sakura watchers will start checking trees on a daily basis so the forecast may be updated.
People will start planning parties, large and small, public and private, reserving spaces in public places known for their blooms, hiring buses, reserving restaurants, catering picnics. This is a HUGE event.
Food vendors will start selling everything pink and everything made with preserved blossoms from last year. They don't taste like much to me, but they are pretty. Like candy corn at Hallowe'en, it's the season so you have to buy some.
People will plan trips to the country, so they must book train tickets (yes, there's a premium for the tickets at this season) and rental cars and hotels. Onsen resorts have probably been booked since last year.
People like me, who have invitations to hanami (flower viewing parties and events) will also watch and enjoy seeing the flower buds swell on different varieties of trees, watching the early varieties color first, then bloom and now reach their peak.
These will fade and the blossoms blow away as the leaves burst out and then the later varieties bloom, fade, fall and leaf out. It'll go on for another couple of weeks, easily.
The whole thing takes at least six weeks. I try to think of the reason for all the excitement and enjoy every single second of it.
And it really is wonderful!