In Tokyo, cherry blossoms (or "sakura") typically bloom in the last week of March and the beginning of April, depending on the weather. Luckily for me, the cherry blossom season for this year came about a week after I arrived in Japan (talk about good timing!). In order to enjoy the cherry blossoms to the fullest extent, the Japanese partake in "hanami", which literally translates to "flowering viewing". However, this phrase is typically used to refer specifically to cherry blossom viewing. Families, friends, and colleagues will picnic while appreciating the beauty of the cherry blossoms. For me, I was lucky enough to be invited to go to Yoyogi Park with a colleague from work for the occasion.
The beautiful cherry blossoms!
When people hear "picnic" in the U.S., the food they think of are probably sandwiches and fruit. While picnicking for hanami, there is no standard food - you can eat whatever you want! Walking into the park, I could hear the rustle of plastic bags that held the snacks and drinks picked up from nearby convenience stores. Just outside of the park, there were stands full of vendors selling delicious food that ranged from yakisoba to ice cream. People in the park were eating things ranging from pizza to sushi to even hot pot! It was quite a cloudy day so I was pretty jealous of that hot pot.
I met a new acquaintance while looking at the cherry blossoms and she explained to me that cherry blossoms are valued in Japan because of the concept of "hakanai". There is no direct English translation for this phrase, but she described the term as the idea of fleetingness - cherry blossoms are so treasured because their beauty only lasts for a short period of time. Then, they wither away and die. And once they're gone, they're gone. At least until next year. I immediately fell in love with the concept after hearing about it - it just felt so poetic and seemed to mirror life.
Picnicking at Yoyogi Park!
I didn't know this, but there are actually several different types of cherry blossoms. I didn't get to see all the different varieties but I did get to see the classic one, which is called "somei yoshino", or the yoshino cherry. This variety can be identified by its white petals, which are tinged with pale pink.
Cherry blossoms up close.
While walking around the park, my new acquaintance told me about the locally famed "Bubble Man". Each year he comes to the park to do a bubble show because he can and also because it brings a lot of people joy. We kept walking and lo and behold, guess who was right in front of us? The Bubble Man! I couldn't believe my luck! His bubble making skills were on a level that I cannot even describe. Here are some shots of him in action.
Bubble man is in center in white. Watch him work his magic!
Look at how big his bubbles are! That wasn't even the biggest one!
It's raining bubbles!
Watching the Bubble Man in action was incredible. I had my mouth gaping wide open for a good majority of it because I was so amazed. It definitely felt like a magical moment to be able to see the cherry blossoms and the bubbles. The day was so wonderful and it could only end in one way: with ramen!
For more pictures and to follow me on my adventure, find me on Snapchat and Instagram as tranjes!