– Picnicking under the cherry blossoms (hanami) at Yasukuni Shrine –
In early April, I came back from a quick trip back home to one of the nicest times of the year in Tokyo: cherry blossom season! This was one of the best seasons since I moved here – the blooms were full, plentiful and lasted awhile until the rain came pouring down. During hanami (pronounced: hah-nah-me) season, crowds pour into the many parks across Tokyo and picnic underneath the blooms. Most of the popular parks are filled with food vendors selling traditional Japanese snack and festival food. More about the food tomorrow! It was still chilly in April, but many people warmed up with food, friends, and of course – alcohol. Some partook a little bit too much and became the target of friendly pranks:
– Complete with fish cakes over his eyes, makeup, and a “Pictures OK” sign –
There’s some controversy surrounding Yasukuni Shrine because it’s devoted to many of the war veterans, including high-ranking officials who have been condemned by the international community. You can often find Japanese ultra-conservative supporters protesting and meeting here. On the day of the hanami festival, there was a whole group of war veterans dressed up in their uniforms honoring the past and discussing international policy reform.
Almost more than cherry blossom season itself, I love it when the blooms fall in a whirlwind of pink snow. It’s so beautiful to sit underneath the trees and be showered with soft pink petals. And for a day or two, the ground is buried in soft and fluffy pink snow. When the wind blows, the petals dance on the ground as if to congratulate themselves for a season well done.