As I began writing this, it dawned on me that the first time I saw a cherry tree blossom, or Sakura, was not in Japan interestingly. It was in Canberra, Australia. It was almost ten years ago when I attended a conference in that city and stayed at the Australian National University Housing. I could still even remember the room where I stayed for its strong smell of old wooden furniture and carpet.
Behind the university housing, there were lines of cherry trees, and at that time, they happened to be blossoming. I was amazed by the trees and the flowers without knowing what kind of trees they were. Being totally ignorant, I was even thinking at that time, how come a tree would only have all flowers without any single leaf left at all. A couple of years ago, my wife and I went on a trip to Japan chasing the cherry blossom season. Only then I realised how stunning and precious these flowers are.
Sakura blooms from March to May throughout Japan. It starts early in the southwest of Japan from Kagoshima and Fukuoka. As the weather gets warmer, the blossoming season moves up north to Sapporo, that witnesses the last days of Sakura season in Japan around early May. There are many varieties of Sakura in Japan, the most commonly found are Somei Yoshino, Yamazakura, and Shidarezakura (or weeping cherry tree)
Sakura is a beautiful representation of life, stunning, vulnerable, but fleeting away very quickly. In contrast to the anticipation throughout the year, once it blooms it only lasts for about one week or two before it disappears so swiftly and suddenly. A Japanese friend of mine, Masa, once said to me, “When the season comes, you can see them blooming everywhere in the city, but then suddenly, they all disappear“.
I think we all need to give a much better effort in appreciating life for it being so fragile. It was just a week ago, my office colleague passed away so suddenly. A few days earlier, she was still sitting next to me and chatting in between our meeting. Although she fell quite ill a few months ago, her passing was so sudden. It makes me realise that everything is just temporary. Life is just like an hourglass. A whole bulk of sand on the top bulb represents the length of time you are allowed to live this world. Each tiny piece of sand that drips down represents each second of our life gone. Just like the passage of time, the sand will not return back to the top bulb. The problem is that everyone thinks that their sand will last for a long while. They believe that everyone should grow old and enjoy the best years of their life. It doesn’t always happen that way, therefore let’s cherish the moment that we can still breathe and live.
As a fan of anime, I notice sakura appears or becomes an essential part of quite a lot of movies. Almost every famous film would have a scene of sakura or falling sakura petals. Apparently, since Sakura season marks the beginning of spring, it carries the meaning of the start of a new adventure, like transitioning from school life to employment or moving to a new place.
From the internet search, I found that there are several recommended places as the best viewing spots for sakura. Among them are, Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo, Philosopher Path and Saga Arashiyama in Kyoto, Osaka Castle, Expo Park and Sakuranomiya in Osaka.
We visited Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo, Expo Commemoration Park, Osaka castle and Sakuranomiya in Osaka. Of all these places, I’d say Sakuranomiya would be my favourite and could be the best viewing spot. I could be wrong in this. Maybe, the timing for us to visit Sakuranomiya was just perfect that it made it look as if it was the best place to see Sakura blooming.
Sakuranomiya is located along the Okawa River, that branches out from Yodo River. While there is a lot of information about Yodo River, whose water comes all the way from Lake Biwa in Shiga, I found almost none about Okawa river. I wonder if it is a man-made canal or a real river made by nature. Located very near to Osaka Castle, this place is easy to find. When you walk out of Sakuranomiya station, walk toward Miyakojima Nakano Post Office. Right at the traffic light crossing, you could choose to walk across the bridge or walk along the riverbank.
It is said that there are at least 5,000 cherry trees along the river. We walked quite further from Sakuronimya station all the way up to Nagarahigashi Park about 1.4 km from the station. The walk along the river was delightful with a view of sakura flowers blooming. The day after that, we had to return back home. Or else I would love to go back to this place again to witness how it would look when all the petals were fleeting away as the wind blew. Well, maybe next time.
Sakura blossoms in Tokyo and Osaka
Cherry blossom seasons throughout Japan – https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2011_when.html