The Japanese celebrate the beginning of spring with Hanami – the cherry blossom festival. The custom began in Japan in the 7th Century – the Japanese artistocracy would admire the cherry blossoms – sakura – and write poetry. The cherry blossom is a symbol of Japan and the country boasts of 300 varieites of this beautiful tree. Sakura is ful of meaning for the Japanese – the fragile flower has been compared to a woman’s beauty – “blossoming for a short period before withering into old age”. It is also said that the warriors of Japan would use sakura as a symbol of “a life that was short but magnificent”.
Today, the tradition of Hanami continues in Japan with celebrations wherever the cherry blossoms are found. People fill parks for dancing, picnics and rather large bottles of sake.
If you’re going to visit Japan for the festival – Mt Yoshino – Yoshinoyama – is said to be the most breathtaking. Over 100,000 trees have been planted in groves along the mountain. The famous poet Matsuo Basho was so struck by the beauty on his visit that he refused to compose a haiku saying that no words could capture the beauty he saw.