Sakura season came and went in rather delayed fashion in the Tokyo Region this past year. Several weeks behind schedule, the blossoms finally came out around the second week in April and managed to hold on strong for about 10 days. The tree lined road between Musashi-Kosugi and Motosumiyoshi (Nakahara Ward, Kanagawa Prefecture) offered some great viewing, and people were out doing their usual picnicking, with an occasional flea market thrown in on the weekend. The most impressive thing about the cherry blossoms are how they look from dusk onward through the night. The pinkish white hues create a canopy that naturally illuminates the narrow alleyways. And as the blossoms fall it looks like pink snow lining the little side streets and fluttering into the canals. Tokyo is often called “The Most Beautiful Ugly City” but for a few brief days in spring, we get to drop the ugly.

Indeed, formerly glum salarmen suddenly are snapping photos on their late night returns from the office.  What looks like spontaneous group parties are held under the blooms, some groups talking late into the night.  And although it is nice to see such sudden outbursts of relaxation in overly formal/serious Japan, something about these 花見 (はなみhanami- “flower viewing” celebrations) seems disingenuous.  For once the pink buds fall, the tree lined canal will become barely used once again and everyone will be back to work.  And we’ll have to wait till next sakura season for permission to party.