Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cherry Blossom Festival

Being an American, I never quite understood why the cherry blossom festivals in Japan were so popular. Yes, the blossoms are beautiful to look at, but many things are and people don't go crazy about them. It seemed like one of the cultural things that are essentially inaccessible to an American like me. Then I went to the Cherry Blossom Festival on base here in Yokosuka.

Wow. Now I get it. It is the Japanese version of the 4th of July in America.

This is the time when families go out to the park with a large blanket or some chairs and sit under the cherry blossoms and picnic. There are booths where food is being cooked, drinks are being served, and souvenirs are being sold. There are temporary stages set up where musical groups are performing. And there is the beauty of the cherry trees filled with blossoms.

I remember that as a child, my mother and father would take the family (I have a brother and two sisters) to a nearly town with a good fireworks display. We would sit on the banks of the river and watch the fireworks show and have a picnic. It is the same with the cherry blossom festivals in Japan. Families will get together, parents and children with their grandparents and neighbors and friends and eat and drink and visit. An American would have no trouble recognizing this.

Many corporations will have company picnics at the large famous parks or festival sites. They will send their junior management out to the park the afternoon or evening before the festival starts to scout and claim a location under a nice cherry tree and plant some chairs and blankets to claim the site for the next day.

Many people in Japan take vacations and follow the blossoms as they bloom, beginning in the southern parts of Japan and heading north as the blossoms come out later and later. Each year a forecast of cherry blossom blooming dates is made and festivals are scheduled to that.

The photographs in this post was all taken by yours truly at Naval Base Yokosuka on April 6th, 2009 during the festival there. On that day the base is opened to the public and anyone can enter without producing any kind of identification. The people of Yokosuka, and many Japanese from Yokohama, Tokyo and other nearby cities came to see the base, the ships, and the cherry blossom - and eat and drink and get drunk under the cherry blossoms.

If you are in Japan when the cherry blossoms come out, do yourself a favor and attend the local festival.


1 comment:

Mimi said...

I never realized that either, like you, I always thought "cherry blossoms are pretty" and left it at that.