Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Rights of Spring Japan Style

I've decided to add some pictures to this post with the abbreviated text to the original post below. I couldn't resist adding these pictures because I think they very well illustrate just how important Cherry Blossom time is in Japan. This photo I especially love not just for the composition but for the expression on this lads face. Spring is here and everything is new again. The joys of youth and discovery are in his eyes.

Ohanami or cherry blossom viewing is a special time here. The trees are all adorned in the bright pink blossoms that last for only a few days. Everyone is out and enjoying the spring like temperatures and are just full of life. Here a Chinese Girl poses for a pict taken by her girlfriends just off camera to the right.

This series of photos was taken in Yogi Park in Downtown Naha, Okinawa, Japan aka the Goya Republic. Along the small river are approximately 400 cherry trees that blossom every February and Early March. Typically the best places to view are the mountains of the northern region of the island. Unfortunately not everyone will drive all the way up north to see them. Every year the city if Naha holds a festival in the park. It's dwarfed by the massive festivals up in Nago, Motobu and Nakijin but for city dwellers who like to gather in the park, this location is ideal.

I call this photo "lovers in Spring." He's probably a college geek explaining to her all the scientific information about the trees and the history. By the look in her eyes, all she sees is beauty.

Here are a couple of shots I took of some blossoms up close so you could see just what a cherry blossom looks like. Amazingly they only blossom like this for a very short time, two or three days before they just float away on the winds and give way to the fresh green of spring. It's no wonder that the Cherry Blossom became the symbol of the ancient Japanese Samurai. Why you ask? Because they were warriors and often laid down their lives at the time of their full glory. Very seldom did a Samaurai live to a ripe old age.

Below is some text from a post that appeared in JPG Magazine dot com website. Since the fate of that organization is still up in the air, I'll be moving those photo essays to this blog one at a time and also adding more photo essays about life on Okinawa. Enjoy....
Every spring in Japan the hearts and minds of people all across the nation turn to two things, baseball or yakyu as its known in the Japanese language and cherry blossom viewing which is known as Ohanami. Baseball comes to Okinawa in the form of spring training for the Japanese professional teams and everyone locally is hyped that once again a local team is slated to compete in the annual Koshien spring high school tournament in Osaka. But we’re not here to talk about baseball today, that’s another story.

Ohanami literally translates to mean flower viewing and is a big event every spring all across Japan. In olden times poets used to write about the cherry blossoms and how their fleeting existence serves to remind us of the transience of our own lives. Steeped in tradition, this symbolism is not lost on the modern-day Japanese. Each year families, friends and colleagues will make plans to have a friendly get-together under the cherry trees.

In mainland Japan, these gatherings often take place in the early evening hours after work or on the weekends. The celebration takes on an almost picnic like atmosphere as people spread out large tarpaulins under the blossom-laden trees and drink copious amounts of beer and sake. Typically seasonal foods are consumed and sometimes people sing songs to celebrate the occasion. In mainland Japan these parties have gotten a reputation for getting a bit raucous and sometimes the police have to be called in to quell the noise.

The trees here on Okinawa are a different variety of cherry tree than up in mainland. There the blossoms are whiter in appearance and take on a normal process of appearing first in the southern regions and then moving northward and into the higher elevations as the warmer spring temperatures reach the higher latitudes. On Okinawa, the blooming process takes a bit of a strange twist. Here they begin blossoming in the northern regions and higher altitudes first, then they make their way southward and on into the lower latitudes.

Okinawa is proud that they can lay claim to the very first Ohanami celebration in Japan every year. Festivals are held in Motobu Town at Mt. Yaedake, Nakijin Village at Nakijin Castle Ruins and the grand daddy of them all is the giant Cherry Blossom Festival held in Nago City and the Ruins of Nago Castle in the central park area near the Orion Brewery. Down south festivals are held at Yogi Park in Naha city and Yaese Town in far southern Okinawa.

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