If you’re even distantly familiar with Japanese culture you will recognize that right now – the springtime – is when a massive event sweeps the nation, from the south to the north. The cherry blossoms are blooming.
While the blooming of the cherry blossoms is not technically a holiday, it creates a festive spirit and it is customary to take whatever time is possible for the hanami – the flower-viewing. Here in the north, the blossoming coincides with Golden Week – a week-long celebration that contains multiple holidays – and so everyone is off of work and out of school, allowing them to take their picnics out to the parks and gardens to enjoy the flowers.
Since this is our last spring here, we decided to join the throngs headed to the most popular cherry-viewing site in the region: Hirosaki Castle.
The drive was harrowing. The traffic was deadlocked. The crowds were massive. The parking was next-to-nonexistent. But the cherries were beautiful.
There were dozens of stands situated around the castle grounds to cater to the people who came in their thousands to see the cherry trees. (Including one that was selling only fresh bananas, which I thought was odd at a fair-type assemblage.) We saw familiar foods,
Some real doozies of creative festival foodâ€¦
And some real favorites.
Iâ€™ve said it before and Iâ€™ll say it again: ringo aisu (apple ice) kicks butt!
All in all it was grueling, fun, beautiful, memorable, culturally interesting – and tasty. Not bad for a dayâ€™s driving.
Oh man! I’m sooo jealous! Newark has more cherry trees than Washington D.C. now and while they have a festival, we don’t get time off work! Ha ha! Nor do we get cool carnival food!
I would love to one day visit Japan and if I did then I would have to time it for hanami, the idea of a nation of people taking the time to enjoy the cherry blossom really appeals to me.
Have you read “Hokkaido highway blues”? It is written by Will Ferguson who decided to follow the cherry blossom all the way up to Hokkaido. There are some lovely stories about his travels in there and I can highly recommend it.