Most Americans would look at a gaggle of photographers jockeying for best shot position and think immediately that a movie star or other celebrity is walking by. In Japan it is not some Hollywood celeb, but rather a blooming cherry blossom that gets that kind of attention. This reverence for bloom is called hanami in Japan—and in the experience of this writer/photographer team, is one of the better windows on just how different Japanese culture is from the American experience.
Difficulty of Scheduling a Japan Tour for Cherry Blossom Time
Unfortunately, what is the same in Japan as everywhere else in the world, is that climate change has made the calendar prediction of when cherry blossoms will peak less predictable. This is also true of the cherry blossoms you see in Washington DC, which were in fact gifted to the USA by Tokyo in 1912.
If the sakura (cherry blossoms) bloom the same week as when schools are closed – from kindergarten to graduate school—you can expect the crowds to be even thicker than the cherry blossoms in the air, on the ground, or still clinging to the trees for their photo opp.
The plus side of bigger crowds is more opportunity for people watching- and even more windows cracking open to help you view the difference between Japanese and US culture. Can you imagine, for example, a romantic outing for 20-somethings being to rent costumes and then stroll around the parks seeming to compete with the blossoms for attention? What would they wear—cowboy outfits or? This is a hot date, we hear – and see- to rent kimonos and take a park stroll!
And can you imagine not one yearly Christmas party in the office that many then have another year to live down, but MANY office parties day after day during sakura season? Go early in the day to where these office picnics happen, and you see one of the youngest employees stationed on a blanket, keeping sentry on that space so that the office party eight or more hours later can happen without a scramble for space.
Sakura season is all about the flowers, though. You will likely not ever disregard the beauty of a bloom again.
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