Sakura: Pretty blooms to take away the gloom


Disastrous Earthquake, Tsunami and then the nuclear threat has put Japan in a somber mood. But like parents coming to calm a troubled child, the Mother Nature has stepped in bring in a little serenity to the stressed Japanese people last week by bringing in blossoms to their Cherry trees. “Sakura or the cherry blossoms cannot come at a more perfect time than this” sending an email from Tokyo, my Japanese friend Takura communicated. Sakura will indeed be a relief for the eyes of the Japanese that has been witnessing disaster, death and uncertainty since Earthquake and Tsunami a month back.

Cherry blossom viewing season marks the dawn of the spring and is normally among the most anticipated announcements Japan. “We usually go out to parks and every inch of outdoor space in Japan is full of people during Sakura Blooming. But this year, Sakura just reminds us the nature of life; the extreme beauty and quick death” my friend who is also a Buddhist said. Full bloom is usually reached within about one week after the opening of the first blossoms. Another week later, the blooming peak is over and the blossoms are falling from the trees. Sakura flowers started blooming in end March from south of Japan and moves north until May. There is only simplicity, purity and truth, and an undeniably beautiful aspect to the powers of nature. Takura who enjoyed the previous Sakura Seasons said that when the flowers start shedding the petals after a full bloom, it is like a rain coming from a pink cloud. The ground is completely covered by the fallen petals providing a carpet to walk in.

Viewing these flowers sitting under a tree is indeed a meditation that nature brings to soothe the minds. While much attention is focused on the blossoms, the trees themselves have strong characters of their own. These old sentinels stand like philosophers and poets from ancient times, telling how the laws of life apply to the disasters around us. As terrible as it is to lose thousands of flowers in a sudden storm, the tree remains intact, ready to provide new flowers in coming seasons. Even under dark skies or gloomy clouds, the flowers emit a white shade of hope, for all who open their eyes enough to see it around them.

This year’s Sakura blooming is announced on last Monday by the Japanese Meteorological Agency. Japan designates certain Sakura trees for monitoring across the country, and considers a region to be in bloom when at least five or six flowers can be counted on its trees. When 80 percent of the trees’ flowers have opened, an area is officially designated as in “full bloom”. The blooming time of cherry trees differs from year to year depending on the weather and Japan says this season started six days later than last year in Tokyo. The blooming of sakura begins in the warmer south and moves north. Flowers in regions hit hardest by the tsunami are projected to make their appearance in early- to mid-April as per Japanese news reports.

Cherry Blossom viewing is a tradition that started centuries ago in Japan. It is known as Hanami in Japanese that means “flower viewing”. Hanami ritual involves sitting under “sakura” trees and picnicking. “But we do not talk much about cherry blossoms this year due to massive disasters and nuclear problems, which still occupied our daily lives. However, we hope we can enjoy sakura season soon” said Eiko – another Japanese friend lives in Kanayama.

A Cherry Blossom is infact the flower of the Japanese Flowering Cherry Tree known as Sakura. There are several species of Cherry Trees that brings flower grows in that region. In Sri Lanka, Hakgala Botanical Gardens once tried to grow these Flowing Cherries. Recalling his memories, the Director General of the Department of Botanical Gardens Dr.Siril Wijesundara said the Botanical Garden was presented few cherry plants in 1980. The botanists tried to raise the unique trees, but they survived only 2 years – perhaps the weather and soil of Sri Lanka did not suit them.

Most of the public places like parks and sides of the roads in Japan are full of Cherry Trees. So it would be a treat to eyes for those who visit Japan during this period of time. The Sakura flowers really represent Japan and the Japanese see the cherry blossoms as symbolizing the need to go back to basics in life. Even during World War II, the cherry blossom was used to motivate the Japanese people, to stoke nationalism and militarism among the populace. So it is a gift given by the nature for this nation and it will surely help them this time too..!!

Published on SundayTimes on 10.04.2011

Pics show Sakura bloom at Higashiyama Zoo in Nagoya and Mt.Fuji with a Sakura tree in full bloom..

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