Wednesday, March 03, 2010

They will go out, including this writer, weather permitting.

The Japanese are famously crazy about the cherry blossoms. When the season comes (usually from the end of March to the beginning of April, depending on the location and the weather of the year), people go outdoors, place mats on the ground, and conduct a ritual of sake drinking and lively conversation ("hanami", literally "flower admiring").

Although some quite justifiably criticize the supposed "purpose" of this custom, that of admiring the cherry blossoms, as just a "pretext" to drink, the criticism is always a light-hearted one. When the time comes again for the Japanese people to go out, they will go out, including this writer, weather permitting.

As more reserved and quieter forerunners to the more outgoing cherry blossoms, the plums have been blooming for the past few weeks. Used to be that Japanese people admired the plums rather than the cherries, in the short poems and essays. It is interesting to consider what brought the change of sensitivities. Maybe it is easier to have a sake drinking session during the cherry blooming time, when it is noticeably warmer.


Anonymous said...

While the blossoming of plum trees is a much "quieter" event, for me it is something more significant and profound than the cherry blossoms, being the very first sign of the arrival of a new season and something which (for me) more truly symbolizes the quiet "subtlety" of our culture and our values which (for me) tends to show a stronger sensitivity towards the "coming" and "going" of the seasons (ie the passage of time) than the celebration of the prime of each season (ie cherry blossoms in this case). I can therefore relate to the fact that more ancient poems have been "sung" about the blossoming of the plums than the cherries (More poems about the "falling" of the cherry blossoms perhaps?). Having said that, I fully enjoy the outdoor rounds of sake all the same.

Petrusa de Koker said...

Viva hanami! viva! :-)
May the Japanese custom of admiring the cherry blossoms live for a long long time! (...the agenda of the admirers doesn't matter.)
In South Africa we also have a custom of admiring spring flowers. "Blomme kyk" (also translate to "flower admiring"). People drive for up to 1000km and more to go to the Northern Cape Province (to places like Calvinia, Nieuwoudtville and Springbok) to see the spectacular display of springflowers. The flowers don't need people, but I think people need to see the flowers after the winter.

(ma)gog said...

From the entrance at Tomigaya side of Yoyogi Park, a wide gentle slope leads up towards the center field of the park, and on this slope there are the most beautiful cherry blossom trees. As a teenager I used to walk up this hill early morning on the way to school, breathlessly admiring this quiet spot in the middle of Tokyo with its early spring cherry blossom trees shyly standing without noticing the magical splendour of their beauty.

nekochama said...

I thought the shift from plum blossoms to cherry was a symbolic move away from Chinese aesthetics to form a more distinctly Japanese art sensibility. At any rate, the weather will be warmer in sakura season; let's look forward to those parties! Meanwhile, ume fruit is so lovely we must not ignore those hardy flowers.

砂山鉄夫(Tetsu Sunayama) said...

"Used to be that Japanese people admired the plums rather than the cherries." -Good point and completely correct especially in the history of waka poetry.

There are more than 100 waka poems composing the plums in Man'yoshu(万葉集)in the Nara Era. On the other hand, waka poems composing the cherries are 40 or so in the collection.

In contrast, in Collection of Ancient and Modern waka poetry(古今和歌集)in the Hiean Era, there are more than 100 waka poems composing the cherries. Waka poems composing the plums are only 10 or so.

The history of waka poetry has a lot of interesting things, and it is sometimes mysterious, sometimes good fun. Cheers!

Yuzu said...

I very envy your friends, because you are always enjoying in your life with friends. The"hanami" season is also. I think everybody love to be with you anytime,
even you disappear. Please enjoy "hanami" this year, too.

apple407 said...

The short duration in which Cherry Blossoms can be admired is likened to the impermanence of our stay on earth. Perhaps, it is with this in mind that Zen Buddhism extols its adherents to break through the impermanent and illusory nature of life before its too late.
But, cherry blossom is too beautiful to ignore.

Christine said...

I think that's an interesting observation. I didn't know Japan had flowers yet. Here in Seoul it has been cold lately.