From the upper class to the people’s party
The contemplation of the cherry tree flower dates back to the Nara period (710–794). The elite used to get together under the cherry trees and recite poems about their fleeting beauty. At the beginning of the Edo period (1603–1868), the Samurais took up this custom and it started to spread to the rest of Japanese society.
The flowering of the cherry trees takes place between the end of March and the beginning of April, but expectations begin earlier: from the end of January, the weather departments of all media outlets publish maps that give information, practically minute by minute, about the flowering forecasts in all the regions of Japan. The weather app Weathernews Touch has been downloaded 13 million times. On the app you can consult Sakura Channel, which enables users to receive updates when their favourite places begin to bloom.
The sakura marks the beginning of spring, but above all it’s a metaphor for the Japanese: it represents the beauty of the ephemeral and the fragility of life. This pink explosion lasts less than ten days, but the Japanese make the most of it. The gardens of cities are filled with crowds of admirers who enjoy picnics surrounded by flowers. It’s a group activity: couples, friends and workmates get together. Even companies send an employee ahead to reserve their places. People stroll, take off their shoes, and eat and drink throughout the day. The party then continues at night, with people singing beneath the illuminated cherry trees. And what sounds very pastoral ends up becoming a little wild, because the sake and beer flow like water.