A River of Cherry Blossoms

A sure sign that warmer weather is here to stay.
A sure sign that warmer weather is here to stay.

The blooming of cherry blossoms is probably one event that’s looked forward to across all of Japan. And for good reason – it’s a sign that spring has legitimately arrived. A recent survey found that citizens in Aomori, the prefecture where I live, take the most pride in their cherry blossoms (After all, Aomori’s home to Hirosaki Castle, which is ranked as the top 桜 spot in Japan.) and spend the most time participating in 花見 (hanami, cherry blossom viewing). As one fellow ALT observed, that’s because our winters are so long and harsh. For people in the southern areas, like Okinawa or even Tokyo, new flowers aren’t anything to write home about. For Aomorians, though, any sign of life after five months of winter’s hellish mix of snow and wind is enough to celebrate.

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Though mostly anyone who lives in Japan has a few cherry blossoms in the vicinity of their residence, I’m pretty lucky. My neighborhood, especially the road along which I live, is filled with them. I love the fact that I can say that I live in 桜川 (Sakuragawa), because in English, it translates to “Cherry Blossom River.” Maybe it’s the Romantic (As in…not a rom-com disciple, but a literary geek who unabashedly loves her Keats, Blake, Browning, and Wordsworth) in me, but I love that the name of my residence evokes natural beauty.

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And it lives up to its name. Cherry Blossom River is chock full of pale pink blossoms.

Cherry blossom trees line both sides of this entire stretch.
Cherry blossom trees line both sides of this entire stretch.

Or at least, it usually is. This year, the blooms have been a bit lackluster. Part of it has to do with the colder temperatures, but one coworker also explained that it was because 嘘 (uso, bullfinches) had been eating the buds. Whatever the case, the flowers bloomed later and more thinly than usual. They were still beautiful, but lacking the impressive cotton candy-esque clouds of petals. Instead they were washed out (or complemented, depending on your viewpoint) by the green leaves of the trees.

For comparison, this is how most sakura trees look when they're in full bloom. Heavy on the pink...light on the green.
For comparison, this is how most sakura trees look when they’re in full bloom. Heavy on the pink…light on the green.
Some trees, though, still had heavy clusters of 桜.
Some trees in my neighborhood, though, still had heavy clusters of 桜.

In any case, I’m never happier to live on Cherry Blossom River than when it physically embodies its name.

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