LOVING THE FOUR SEASONS- SPRING
Japan is a land rich in natural beauty and is blesses with four distinct seasons. Since ancient times, its people have been sensitive to the changing seasons, which can be seen in their lifestyle and worship nature’s gifts, which in turn is the Shinto religion embedded into the Japanese culture. I am making this a four part series, each for every season because, there is a lot centered around each season and I would like to dig deep into more aspects of the season than a general idea of it.
I would love to start with spring because spring is the season of beginnings. Japan’s school term, company, and fiscal years all begin from April. New life sprouts where the land prepares to welcome all the beginnings with its beauty. The most obvious thing when asked about Japan’s spring is cherry blossoms. Rows and rows of cherry blossom trees make the nation pink! I would like to introduce many more blossoms which may be missed because of all the hype the sakura gets.
Wisteria, Pink Moss , and Blue Nemophila: many may not be aware of these flowers, but these are also a sight to see in Japan. Wisteria events are held across the country. Two most famous wisteria festivals in Japan are: The Great Wisteria Festival at Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi Prefecture, and Kawachi Fuji Wisteria Garden in Fukuoka Prefecture. The blue nemophila blooms in Hitachi Seaside Park, 200 acres of them in the month of May. Keep your eyes open and you’ll find some very pretty sights all across Japan in spring.
Opening ceremony: All schools and colleges in Japan start their term in April, which is a new start for all the students. If you’ve watched any anime, there has got be one scene dedicated to the sakura flowing in the air amidst all the children going to school.
Cherry- blossom viewing (Hanami): It’s a culture for the Japanese to drink, eat and merry make as they have a picnic under the Sakura trees as the weather is cool and perfect after a harsh winter cold. This flower is also represented on all manner of consumer goods in Japan, including kimono, stationery, and dishware. Do not miss out of the seasonal variety of Sakura flavoured Kit-Kats, Starbucks drinks and Coco-cola.
Strawberry: If cherry blossom wasn’t pink enough, Spring is also the season for strawberries, which brings a popular activity called “strawberry picking”- where you and the family go to strawberry farms, pick & eat as many strawberries as you can, loved by children. Around the towns cafe's are strawberry filled desserts for the everyone!!
Art and literature: Many haiku and tanka include the beauty of spring or reference feelings through nature, like
“These blossoms on a spring sprig
Each conceal a hundred words of mine
Do me the favor of not dismissing either”
- Fujiwara no asomi Hirotsugu (VIII:1456)
Sweets!!!: Japanese traditional sweets ( wagashi) are created visualizing the season. Since spring is full of flowers, buds and fresh greenery, the sweets are shaped and flavoured like wise. It’s a feast for the eyes and taste buds alike. All cutlery, chopsticks change to eye pleasing spring theme, bento boxes will have imitations of spring in them. That’s what you need to look out for.
FESTIVALS: Main festivals that fall in spring are, Setsubun ( beginning of spring) Hinamatsuri (doll festival or girl’s day) celebrated all over Japan, there are also other region specific festivals.
Visit Japan in spring not only for the cherry blossoms, keep a close eye on the streets, you might find some very pretty, cute flowers, cycle through places and breathe in the cool, crisp air and you may ending up feeling the "breeze of spring" and say " Spring has arrived, hasn't it".
The next article will be Summer!