Friday, 9 April 2010

no sakura, no spring


My personal report on sakura (cherry blossoms). This weekend, it was chilly, cloudy and patchy-rainy... Tokyo was situated a bit miserable in weather, but sakura was finally in full bloom. Hooraaay!!!

In Japan, life starts in April; schools, companies, services and systems, all are renewed at this time of year. As the Japanese Met Office issues a formal statement for the first opening of sakura blossoms, the whole nation craves for sakura to flower as a sign of “new” and “promising”.


On the photo is a sakura view in “Aoyama-bochi” regarded as one of the best “hanami” (sakura-watching, or “o-hanami”, more politely) spots in the heart of the capital. The place is a huge cemetery on its own managed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and the atmosphere is 24/7 civilised with less boozers. It may sound spooky to imagine hundreds of sakura trees running alongside roads across the grave complex. Stepping in the sacred boundary, however, you’ll find to walk through the pale-pink flowery tunnel is just a heavenly experience. Aah, it is where the dead is sleeping in peace, so that’s “heaven”, no less!

To be precise, “sakura” is a generic term for a whole variety of cherry trees, but generally referred to as “Somei-Yoshino”, the most popular variety rooted throughout the Japanese islands. Its peak-bloom period lasts as short as a week, or less than that due to the seasonal wind and rain. Please, please excuse us for being ridiculously fussy not to miss out the momentary glace.


Not prioritising the “quantity” of sakura blossoms, you can enjoy hanami everywhere in Japan: gardens, squares, playgrounds, pavements, riverbanks, et al. Plus, many TV adverts are switched to their sakura version too. My favourite is the one for “Iyemon” green tea bottle produced by a Japanese beverage giant, “Suntory”. Since 2004, this advert has been a series of daily scenes happening around Iyemon, who is a green tea brewer living in Kyoto with his wife hundreds of years ago. Here’s the 30-second piece to be worth a look:




And spring has come on sweets, of course. Japanese traditionally eats confectionery such as “sakura-mochi” (rice cake and sweet bean paste wrapped in a sakura leaf). To flavour, salted sakura flowers or preserved leaves are mixed with the sweet dough. It’s good that the family of sakura sweets is extending with a wide range from pastry, through cake and biscuit to ice cream. On the other hand, the second truth is it’s not necessarily admired by all of us because of the incense-ish taste. I asked my friend who was an excellent cook for a seasonal pudding. The result she made is a fake sakura roll substituting cherry fruits. Fabulous! (.. no photo, sorry. My old camera got unwell.)

Now the height of sakura is almost ending in Tokyo, its front is heading northwards. Spring comes after sakura, or sakura deserves spring itself.... I’ve come up with an idea; sakura is “umami” of Japanese culture, the unique beauty nurtured by our deep, deep terroir.

26 comments:

Chow and Chatter said...

beautiful maybe one day I will come to Japan at this time of year we visited a few years back love it

the lacquer spoon said...

Dear Rebecca, glad to hear you enjoyed the stay in Japan! I like every season with different beauties, but nothing can beat the splendour of sakura :)

Dinners and Dreams said...

I had no idea one could cook with sakura. I like the way it sounds.logieregy

reindeersp said...

Just came across your blog. Your writing is so beautiful and flowing. It makes me feel quite peaceful.. :)

Kitchen Butterfly said...

Where I live, in the Netherlands, the blossom are coming out. Though I've never been to Japan, I said to my husband that the blossom trees here remind me of Japan!!!!!!!

the lacquer spoon said...

Dear Dinners and Diners, thanks for your comment. Sakura is actually versatile to view, to eat and to drink! Hope you have a chance to try :)

Dear reindeersp, thanks a lot for your comment. It’s a pleasure to share my culture with people living on the same planet! Pls stop by my blog when you need peace of mind :)

Dear Kitchen Butterfly, thanks for your kind note! Long ago, but I’ve been to Amsterdam and Hague, both of which are lovely cities. Enjoy blossom watching in your place too!!

MaryMoh said...

Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing and enlightening us with life and beauty of Japan, a nation that always fascinates me. Enjoy the beauty around. I'm so glad that Spring is here too. We have the cherry blossoms blooming :D

the lacquer spoon said...

Dear Mary, Thank you very much and glad to know cherry trees are bloomed in the UK! Spring lifts us up with beautiful flowers and warm weather after tough winter. What a great gift :)

Melinda said...

Hi! I love the idea of sakura as the "umami of Japanese culture." What a fabulous thought.

Did you have any sake at your hanami party?

Melinda

the lacquer spoon said...

Dear Melinda, thank you! Many thoughts on Sakura around, but I’ve forgot to mention, sakura is inseparable from sake :D As missing the pink Jozen this time, I chose Sakura-gawa, Yamagata pref. The name is just right for hanami :)

Núria said...

I think your tradition is more than beautiful! I love cherry trees (just sponsored one - future post) and I also adore seeing them bloom :D

the lacquer spoon said...

Dear Núria, thanks for your kind note! Although Japan has still been into deep recession, spring remains beautiful ever :) Wish I could watch your cherry tree in full bloom!

Little Inbox said...

Oh, I love mochi.
Thanks for dropping by my blog.

the lacquer spoon said...

Dear Little Inbox, thanks! Japan has both savoury and sweet mochi, and these days, cream/ice cream wrapped with mochi is favoured by the lads and ladies :)

That's Ron said...

I wish that i can come to japan in March to see the sakura falls one day!

the lacquer spoon said...

Dear Ron, thanks for visiting my blog! Late Mar to early Apr is the most flowery moment in spring Tokyo, athough you have to watch loads of hanami boozers too ;)

mademoiselle délicieuse said...

Husband has been to Japan before and caught the end of cherry blossom season. I have yet to experience it myself but look forward to it as well as sampling its related foods =)

the lacquer spoon said...

Dear mademoiselle délicieuse, thank you! Wish you'll visit Japan together with your husband some time! Not to mention real flowers, you'll be fascinated by both savoury and sweet dishes related to sakura :)

TasteHongKong said...

It is always my wish to visit Japan again during Easter, seeing the blossoming Sakura while eating my carefully picked bento. Next time, I shall also treat myself with Sakura mochi. Thanks for sharing.

the lacquer spoon said...

Dear TasteHongKong, thanks for your comment! Yes, wish you could be back to Japan in spring with the flowery and culinary inspiration :)

My Little Space said...

Hi there, thanks for stopping by my blog earlier and nice to meet you. You have a very lovely blog here. Will try to scroll around after this. And hope to hear from you more often.
Have a nice day!
Cheers, Kristy

the lacquer spoon said...

Dear Kristy, Welcome & thanks for the warm note! I just started my English blog in 2009 end, and yes, hope and hope to update more regularly this year. In the meantime, love your blog!

Anncoo said...

Beautiful post! I only saw cherry blossoms in Taiwan and Yunan, China but not in Japan during Spring. Must choose to come to Japan during this time.

the lacquer spoon said...

Dear Anncoo, thank you! Eeverywhere is so packed with people and people not to see sakura, but yes! the spring is well worth to visit :)

♥¸¸.•*¨Skip to Malou¨¨*•.¸¸♥¸ said...

I haven't been to Japan... or better yet, I've only been in Japan airports and in that case, I've been to Japan so many times already hahahah.

but thanks for sharing your country and culture... there's something in Japan that wants me to live there...

the lacquer spoon said...

Dear Malau, Thank you for stopping by my blog... and Narita Airport! The airport is too boring to stay shor or long, so hope you'll come into the land to explore our fab food :)

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