Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring is here! Sakura blossoms in Meguro, Tokyo

In Japan, the transition from winter to spring is clearly marked by a week-long event: the blossoming of sakura (cherry blossom) trees. The whole nation is swept up in the white and pink tide, with media reports forecasting the blooming periods in different parts of the country. In particular, the exact day when the trees will be in full bloom in each prefecture gets a lot of attention.
The main sakura watching period, called hanami, lasts about a week. This year, hanami arrived a bit earlier than usual in Tokyo, with the peak day landing on March 23.

There are many sakura trees in Tokyo, but some spots have large numbers of trees, either in clusters or, for more dramatic effect, in long rows. One famous area is in Meguro, which is on the Yamanote line. About 10 minutes from Meguro station is a long canal, and there are hundreds of sakura trees on either side, continuing for quite a distance. A man, a sakura, a canal: Meguro. If you translate that into Japanese and drink enough, it's a palindrome.
Some reports downplay Meguro sakura watching because the trees are along a man made structure (so the thinking goes that it makes the experience less natural), but I found it perfectly enjoyable.
And I brought some sofubi fellows (Elegab minis) along for the stroll.

More after the jump:

There are very nice walkways, with overhanging trees that reach low and make a good canopy.
A major part of the hanami tradition is finding a place under a tree and having a picnic. Here the Japanese do not mess around. They lay out tarps and set up meals (which are sometimes lavish), often with bottles of wine, lots of food, plenty of beer, more food, beer, and more alcohol for good measure. But it's a festive, laid back mood. I didn't see any rowdiness in either of the sakura spots I visited.

The little dudes got into the hanami spirit!

In the evening, around six, lights along the canal provide another viewing experience.

And that's a look at Meguro during hanami. A few days ago, I visited Ueno Park, perhaps the quintessential sakura spot in Tokyo. I'll post about that soon.

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