Let’s talk flowers. Flowers represent beauty in many if not all cultures around the world. Imagine living in the 1500s. What colors do you think would be around you? I always imagine brown, brown and even more brown with a small serving of brown. You know, wood houses, muddy roads, people wearing old linen or hemp.
So where and when would people see colors? In spring when the flowers bloom of course. The harsh winters have made people so miserable that any new color is a blessing.
So, suddenly, overnight, the weather starts improving. The bees are waking up and the trees lose their depressing, bare looks and then, without warning, the world explodes in yellows, reds and greens.
This, I imagine, applied to Japan too, only a little bit more magical. The blooming cherry blossom`s pink color is a wonderful change from the normal background colors.
Becoming popular in the Heian period, flower viewing was the inspiration for many haikus, wakas and many other forms of art, which the time period is known for.
Just like most things to do with Japan, the basic principles are very simple but the depth of it is overwhelming. I mean, it is just a picnic under a tree, right? Well, yes and no. It depends on how deeply you are willing to get into the meaning of the whole thing.
My favorite allegory to do with flower viewing and the sakura trees especially is that life is extremely fragile and temporary. Just like the sakura themselves, life comes and goes and we really do not have any sort of control over it. So we should just sit down and enjoy it while it lasts. Know that it will go away soon, so you appreciate it now before it goes away…… or something like that.
The modern version of flower viewing are pretty similar to the old style, I guess. Go under the tree with food and alcohol and have a mini-party until it gets too cold or uncle Taku gets too drunk, whichever comes first.
I love the fact that the news stations have a blooming-forecast, starting in Okinawa (where it is warm) going up to Hokkaido. It always reminds me of some sort of terrible event that is sweeping the nation. Who will be next?!?
Best places to “flower view” in Kansai
I have two favorite places in Osaka and one in Kyoto which I would say are the perfect places to “view” the flowers in a nice environment. First one, as always, is Osaka Castle Park. It is really big, so you do not have to worry about being crowded that much. It also has a beautiful view of the castle itself from many different angles.
The park, like most places in Japan is very clean and I would say very safe considering its size. There are always some runners around, even at night, so… you know… safety in numbers and all that.
The second place I would recommend is Sakuranomiya. See! It even has Sakura in the name. You can access it one station away from Kyobashi station on the JR Osaka loop line.
Nothing compares to a large river with pink sakura trees going all along the riverside lit up at night. That is Sakuranomiya.
The third entry on this list is the classical tourist destination. The Kamo River in Kyoto. It may not have “sakura” in its name, like Sakuranomiya, but its friendly atmosphere and the wide, shallow river makes it one of my favorite places to visit in all of Japan. I do not know what it is about Kyoto, but the atmosphere there is just so much different than any other city in Japan I have ever been in.
Actually, I am pretty sure I know why. The lack of high-rise buildings and the forest-covered mountains on every side gives a certain natural aura that calms the heart in a very special way. Every time I go there, I can feel my blood pressure dropping down to pre-anxiety levels. It feels good.
If you have not been there before, do yourself a favor and make the trip. You will not be disappointed.
If this year will be your first flower viewing experience, please remember to take it slow, drink responsibly, eat healthily and for Pete`s sake, enjoy the flowers!