Whether you live in an area of the world that has noticeable seasonal changes or not, it can be very easy to take for granted the beautiful plants that surround us and the various changes they undergo throughout the year. From the sprouting of seeds to the blooming of flowers or the falling of leaves, many of us are in such a rush through life that we seldom stop and smell the roses, as the saying goes.
In Japan however, a key part of their culture is ‘mono no aware’ (物の哀れ) which is an awareness of the transience of things. It focuses on the impermanence of life and appreciating its fleeting beauty while also feeling a little sadness at this truth.
In modern day Japan this is celebrated throughout the seasons of the year with various festivals. One such festival that Japan is quite famous for, is the cherry blossom festival known as ‘hanami’ (花見), meaning ‘flower viewing’ in Japanese. Every spring, thousands of people gather to appreciate the blooming of the cherry blossoms, known as ‘sakura’ (桜). People will walk among the trees taking many photos, sit beneath the trees for picnics and even host parties in the evenings.
Hanami is such a popular tradition in Japan that there are even blossom forecasts for people to check so they can plan accordingly to appreciate the blossoms at their best. These forecasts will estimate the optimal time for viewing the blossoms in full bloom as well as when they are past their peak or may not be open yet. With so many people wanting to share in the joy of blossom viewing, it is crucial that you plan ahead to secure your picnic or party spot beneath the trees.
This time of year is so important to the Japanese people that the school and fiscal year actually begins in April unlike autumn time which is more commonplace in western countries. This is because the blooming of cherry blossoms is symbolic of new beginnings.
People from all over the world travel to Japan to experience this festival and I can’t say I blame them. But we don’t have to live in Japan to appreciate the beauty of these blossoms, or of any plant life for that matter. The next time you are walking through the park or passing by some blossoming trees on the bus or train, take the time to appreciate their transient beauty.