One of the best things about Japan in the spring are the sakura (cherry blossoms). They’re incredibly beautiful and also quite fleeting — they go from full bloom to petals falling in about a week. For most Japanese people, they represent the impermanence of life.
From Wikipedia (because I’m too lazy to explain all of this in my own words):
The transience of the blossoms, the extreme beauty and quick death, has often been associated with mortality; for this reason, cherry blossoms are richly symbolic, and have been utilized often in Japanese art, manga, anime, and film, as well as at musical performances for ambient effect.
Japanese pilots would paint them on the sides of their planes before embarking on a suicide mission, or even take branches of the trees with them on their missions. A cherry blossom painted on the side of the bomber symbolized the intensity and ephemerality of life; in this way, the aesthetic association was altered such that falling cherry petals came to represent the sacrifice of youth in suicide missions to honor the emperor. The first kamikaze unit had a subunit called Yamazakura or wild cherry blossom. The government even encouraged the people to believe that the souls of downed warriors were reincarnated in the blossoms.
You can see sakura in almost every part of Japan. They start blooming in Okinawa in December and start moving through Japan from there. They’ve bloomed earlier this year than usual — generally they start around the beginning of April. You can see a sakura forecast for 2013 here. They’ve already started to fall in Tokyo, but they bloomed a little later here in the Kansai region.
This past weekend, we decided to go to Kyoto for some cherry blossom fun. Kyoto is only 30 minutes from Osaka via train, or 15 minutes via shinkansen. Most of these photos are from the Philosopher’s Walk (哲学の道) in Kyoto.
I’ll refrain from commentary because I can only say OMG LOOK AT THE PRETTY SAKURA!!! きれいですね?! so many times. (Warning: If you do not like looking at a million photos of flowers, turn back now!)
Food break! Do you like fried things on sticks? I do!
Why yes, this is a shrimp wrapped in a fried fish cake.
RANDOM CUTE BUNNY. This store only sold bunny items.
Fresh senbei (rice crackers).
Goma (sesame) senbei for me! Okay, food break over. Back to sakura.