Sakura Time

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Sakura at the grounds of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace.
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Minato, Tokyo.
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A guard at the Imperial Palace.

Every spring, the Japanese celebrate hanami, which is sakura (cherry blossom) viewing. I was told that Japan’s famous trees bloom only for a week out of the year, and I was determined not to miss them. In fact, I mostly based the timing of my three months in Japan on sakura. It sounds crazy, but they bloom at a different time every year and only for a week, and I wanted to make sure that week fell during my visit! So when my host mom casually told me a few weeks ago that “oh, we might miss the cherry blossoms in Tokyo while we’re in Okinawa, oops” – in Okinawa, full bloom comes and goes as early as January – I got a bit nervous. Could it really be that quick?

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In some areas, the blossoms are surprisingly dense.
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This is in the neighborhood of Naka-Meguro. Everyone takes loads of pictures – and all the same one – but I couldn’t resist joining in!
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This is what they were photographing, by the way.
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See the green pushing through these rain-heavy blossoms? It’s evidence of what is soon to replace these beautiful flowers. I actually like them better with some green mixed in.

Well, the answer is yes, it’s very quick, but we didn’t miss them! We came back to a Tokyo in the midst of full bloom and covered in little pink petals. Over the course of 4 days, I took nearly 100 pictures of cherry blossom trees. I definitely went overboard (and I certainly won’t share all of them here). I’m not much of a flower person, or a nature person for that matter, but these trees are beautiful. It’s also hilarious to see the massive groups of people walking through the trees, taking photos, and having hanami parties (essentially, alcoholic picnics under the trees).

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Hanami in Shinjuku.
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Evidence of hanami – the most trash I’ve seen at once out in Tokyo!
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This guy keeps the crowds under control.
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In the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. The best time to see sakura is on a rainy and foggy day like this one, when fewer people are out! 

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The cherry blossom season is often used to illustrate a Japanese fascination with fragile and delicate beauty, especially beauty so fleeting. I definitely agree that there’s an appreciation here for the delicate, whether that’s the cherry blossoms, or tiny pastries, or food flavors in general, or tiny exquisite designs on manicured nails. I suppose it even manifests in the traditional gender roles here – it’s definitely a thing for women to be ultra-delicate and feminine.

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Well, the cherry blossoms are certainly fragile. It makes for a beautiful scene: as you walk under the cherry blossom trees, the slightest breeze sends individual petals off the branches and swirling around you, ultimately blanketing the ground you’re walking on. But it also makes it evident that the cherry blossoms are soon to fade, even though the way in which they settle down on all of Tokyo makes them seem more durable.

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Check out how many petals have already fallen to the floor! The rain accelerates the process and thus shortens the period of full bloom.
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The Chidori-ga-fuchi Moat, surrounding the Imperial Palace, is lined with sakura.
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This is in Naka-Meguro. It was hard not to smile on such a lovely day! (Photo credit to my friend Soichi).
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Last shot from Shinjuku Gyoen. 
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