Thursday, March 6, 2008

Travel Wednesdays #1: Hanami by Miguel Aranez

In early April it will be time again for the uniquely Japanese ritual of Hanami or cherry blossom viewing. Thousands of people flock to Ueno, Yasukuni-Dori and other public areas to view the fleeting yet absolutely beautiful flowering of cherry blossoms at the beginning of spring.

People would lay picnic blankets to eat, drink and be merry all through the night. As with a lot of traditions in modern Japan, it becomes a mix of old and new, domestic and foreign. You can clearly see this in the picnic spread I had a couple of years ago. French baguettes, Spanish tortilla paisana, Polish kielbasa and the revered Yebisu beer come together (along with the Diet Pepsi, of course).

Unfortunately, this year, I will be in Tokyo a couple of weeks too early. I will not have the opportunity to admire the beauty of Hanami again. Come to think of it, it is quite odd to have grown men come together and admire the beauty of spring flowers. I guess it is something uniquely Japanese (along with eating fugu stew and bathing in an ofuro with snow falling) that just has to be experienced to be understood and appreciated.

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