Thursday, April 07, 2005

hunting for hanami

before i last left tokyo i was told that i would be returning during the hanami (literally flower viewing) festival. i did some investigation before coming back so that i would be up to speed. it is true, this week is the best for cherry blossom in tokyo. i'm fortunate, this is a pretty spectacular cultural phenomenon. it not only marks the beginning of spring, but also the beginning of the academic and fiscal year (it strikes fear into the hearts of young and old equally) ...

there is a website dedicated to "how to do hanami", here is a brief excerpt ...

"Cherry blossom viewing is easy: Simply enjoy the intensity of the many blossoms by looking at a single tree or a group of trees. From a distance, the trees appear as beautiful clouds, while the beauty of single blossoms can be enjoyed from a close distance."

this site goes onto say that blossom is especially beautiful when viewed with a castle, temple or shrine. in addition to philosophical help, the fledging viewer can also get meteorological aid; there are forecasts published to help people plan when and where to see the best blossom.

given this wealth of information we went out well prepared this lunchtime to experience the blossom. tokyo, it seems, is a big city, with a lot of concrete and many trees. unfortunately, like most things, it's only when you start looking for a cherry tree that you can't find it.

eventually we found a cherry blossom behind a large wall, but couldn't get to it.

in order to build some energy for climbing the wall we decided to make a quick stop for lunch. it is possible during the festival to reserve spaces in the big parks and have a picnic. we were a little less prepared, after rejecting subway, we went for another traditional dish; chinese takeaway. we had rice porridge, tantanmen and marbled tofu.

a typical food during hanami is dango, a sweet rice dumpling on skewer. there is an expression in japan; "hana yori dango" meaning "i would rather eat dango than view cherry blossoms" ... seems unduly harsh.

disappointed that i hadn't seen hanami we started back to the office. upon turning a corner we stumbled across a mini-hanami party. i believe that this group of people had read the recommendations from above and taken almost all of them on board, although, they have sensibly substituted the back of the ana hotel in roppongi for a temple or shrine.

if you want to experience your own virtual hanami you can download the screensaver. enjoy the intensity of many blossoms by looking at your pc monitor ... yeaaaah ...

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