It’s April 2014, the weather is finally starting to take a turn for the better, spring break has come and gone for those people fortunate enough to get one at all. April means spring. And here in Japan, spring means sakura.
For those not in the know or those who are otherwise uninitiated in the art of contemplating the falling cherry blossoms with a great degree of self-importance and pretension, sakura is the Japanese term for “cherry blossoms”, a type of plant/tree/thing that is apparently different from plain old cherries in that sakura trees don’t actually bear any fruit (Thanks Obama), are probably a bitch to clean up what with their falling petals and all, and look dead for most of the year save a one week (or sometimes less than that) period in which their flowers blossom and millions of Japanese people flock to parks and groves in droves, eager to ring in the tidings of warm weather with copious amounts of booze, food, and shenanigans. It’s like college, only with old, beaten-down businessmen and cold, neglected housewives instead of frat bros and skanks in tubetops and heels.
I would would be lying if I said that I didn’t appreciate the cherry blossoms or the warmer weather but I would also be lying if I said I appreciated it as much as I appreciate the internet or a shirt that isn’t either too big or too small.
The thing about sakura season in Japan is that it pretty much is three months of build up, followed by three days of peak blossom season, followed by weeks of fallen blossom petals blowing everywhere and generally causing a big mess and allergies for a lot of Japan’s more nebbish, hypochondriac population (“My nose is runny, I have hay fever!”).
Over the years, sakura and hanami have come to be associated with the passage of time, more specifically, graduation, which, unlike America, usually happens right around March and April. As a result, most of the nation’s pop culture pretty much stops what it’s doing and shifts course into full blown sakura-mania, complete with daily sakura forecasts, sakura-themed TV specials, and more sakura songs than you ever thought could be possible. It’s like Christmas is in America, except in this case you don’t get any presents and there are (more) drunk people in the train station (than usual) singing old folk tunes to themselves.
So sure, the sakura blossoms maybe pretty to look at but overall they may be a bit of a pain in the ass. Plus, once you get over the fact that you no longer need to wear arctic expedition gear to work everyday, everything else is just peachy (or maybe in this case cherry-y?).
Or maybe I’m just a cynical, hardened bastard… Yeah, that’s the ticket.