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Celebrating the cherry tree blossom in Japan

It’s the time of year when hundreds of thousands of Japanese flock to see the cherry blossom or ‘hanami’ when the cherry trees are so heavy with blossom they appear to be covered from head to toe, each tree seems to merge with the next to form a canopy of delicate fragrant blossom which looks as if its lit from within when the sun shines.

 The most popular trees are the somei-yoshino with white blossom and a hint of pink in the centre, other varieties vary in colour from white to the palest pink with a darker pink centre to the yaezakura trees whose blossom is the deepest pink and the latest to bloom.

 Centuries ago it would have been the emperor and his court who spent time walking amongst the trees and writing poetry about the blossom as the trees only grew in their gardens but over time thousands more trees were planted and they are now enjoyed by everyone.

The trees first start to blossom in the southern Japan in January and gradually the blossoming spreads north through to late May. This year the festivals in Osaka and Kyoto are 4/5thto 10th April. So popular is the cherry blossom there are websites and maps predicting when the trees will be in full bloom (70% of the flowers will be out).

Families visit the blossom and sit under the trees with picnics for the whole day. There are many traditional ceremonies held under the trees during the festival including tea ceremonies. Even Starbucks sprinkle cherry blossom petals on lattes.

The blossom, holds its beauty only fleetingly, so is seen as a symbol of the transience of life and the impermanence of beauty and features in art, poetry, traditional tattoos and music.

In some parts of Japan the cherry blossom festival coincides with the annual Golden Week holiday, 29th April to 5thMay, when most businesses shut down and all 127m Japanese spend the week celebrating different national days including Children’s Day.

In the early 20thCentury Japan gifted over 2000 cherry trees to the US and there’s an annual cherry blossom festival held in Washington DC but Newark, New Jersey steals the US cherry blossom crown.

Here in the UK Batsford Arboretum in Gloucestershire and Keele University in Staffordshire have the national cherry tree collections, early to mid April is the peak season to see the blossom so perhaps somewhere to visit during the Easter Holidays?

Photo Credit:@best.japan Instagram

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