This weekend was spent moving so it was largely uneventful. I had been bringing things to my new apartment with my bike all week so when moving day came there was nothing left to bring but the big things. It made the move much easier. My new apartment is really nice. It is a traditional Japanese styled place with tatami mats and rice paper sliding windows. My favourite part is the fact that it’s directly on top of my school and easily twice the size of my old place. Anyways onto the blossoms…
So as I mentioned last weekend I went out and photographed the cherry blossoms in Niigata. The two main locations I went to were Hakusan Park and Toyano Lagoon as they are the best. Flower viewing was actually a Chinese custom the Japanese adopted during the Heian Era(794-1191). Aristocrats, imperial households, poets and songwriters were said to gather underneath the trees to celebrate the blossoms. These trees are planted all over the country and bloom as early as January (in the southern parts such as Okinawa) and as late as April or May (for the northernmost island, Hokkaido). Many families travel around the country to view the blossoms and have Hanami parties. Hanami parties are a chance for people to get together with friends and family to drink, picnic, and relax while viewing the trees. Here is a Hanami party at Hakusan park.
Culturally, the Sakura are said to symbolize the ephemeral nature of life because they only stay in bloom for about a week each year. The extreme beauty and quick death are linked to mortality through the Buddhist ideal of ‘mono no aware‘ and transcend into Japanese art, anime, music, and film. In addition to this, the Sakura symbolizes love, affection, good fortune, and spring. They are also said to resemble clouds because they bloom in such large quantities.
Interestingly enough the Sakura was also used to symbolize nationalism and dominance. During World War II, the Sakura trees were used to motivate and manipulate the Japanese people stroking nationalism in a support for the military. Suicide bombers(Kamikaze) would paint Sakuras on the sides of their planes or even bring branches with them to symbolozine the intensity of life. Falling cherry blossoms were also meant to symbolize the sacrifice of youth to suicide missions in honour of the emperor. The government also attempted to encourage the population by claiming that the souls of these fallen soldiers were reincarnated in the blossoms.
The other usage of the cherry tree is to symbolize Japanese dominance over a specific territory. This is now different from Korea, who cut down their cherry trees surrounding Seoul’s Gyeongbok Palace during their 50th anniversary of independence from Japanese colonial rule.
Here are the pictures. Hope everyone is doing well!