Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sakura

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Mention spring in Japan, and people often will associate it with cherry blossoms, or more commonly known as sakura.
Before I came to Japan, the Japanese lecturers who taught at the preparatory center back in KL used to tell us how beautiful the flower is. Back then however, we didn't have the chance to see real sakura flowers. It wasn't until the first day we reached Tokyo where we got the chance to see rows of sakura trees around the Narita International Airport proximity.
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Taken from the bus just after we left the airport back in April 2007.
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One of the alleys nearby Toko Hotel.
But we only got to see them from afar, and it wasn't until later that evening that we had time to wander around Toko Hotel in Tokyo, that we saw sakura in full bloom along the roadsides. Since that day, although I've seen sakura countless of times already, I've not got bored with this flower just yet.
Sakura is Japan's unofficial national flower. It has been celebrated for many centuries and holds a very prominent position in Japanese culture. There are many dozens of different cherry tree varieties in Japan; well over 200 cultivars can be found across the country. Most of the sakura bloom for just a couple of days in spring. The Japanese celebrate that time of the year with hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties under the blooming sakura trees.
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Stage 1 - Still in buds.
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Stage 2 - The flowers begin to bloom.
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Stage 3 - Sakura at its full-bloom.
Now that it is already heading towards the end of April, the cherry blossom season has come to an end in many cities across southern and central Japan, including Tokyo and Kyoto. In the meantime, the blossom front is moving into northern Japan and higher elevations like Hokkaido. The blooming process of the sakura is tremendously affected by temperature, rain and wind; for example, they can delay or shorten it considerably. On the contrary, when there is a huge temperature difference between days, the sakura will bloom much faster than predicted, which was seen in Nagaoka this year.
Every year, the Japanese Meteorological Agency and the public track the sakura front as it moves northward up the archipelago. The blossoming of sakura will begin at the most southern island of Okinawa in January and typically reaches the middle part of the main island, Honshu where Kyoto and Tokyo is located at the end of March or the beginning or April. It proceeds into areas at the higher altitudes and northward, arriving in Hokkaido a few weeks later.
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There aren't any leaves on sakura trees when it's spring.
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Canopy of sakura.
Japanese pay close attention to these forecasts and turn out in large numbers at parks, shrines, and temples with family and friends to hold flower-viewing parties, commonly known as hanami here. Hanami festivals celebrate the beauty of the sakura and for many are a chance to relax and enjoy the beautiful view. The custom of hanami dates back many centuries in Japan: the eighth-century chronicle Nihon Shoki records hanami festivals being held as early as the third century CE.
Sakura trees are often spotted around Japanese schools and public buildings. Since the fiscal and school year both begin in April, the first day of work or school coincides with the sakura season in many parts of Honshu, the main island of Japan.
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Close-up shot #1.
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Close-up shot #2.
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Close-up shot #3.
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Close-up shot #4.
There aren't many sakura trees in my college, just a few trees here and there. Nonetheless, we have something else to make up for that. There is a park behind our college, Yukyuzan Park which is only about ten-minute walk away. There is always something different that the park offers every season of the year, but I would say the best season to visit this park will be during the spring, when sakura is at its full-bloom.
Every year during the sakura season, we visit this park at least once to have hanami parties. This year was no exemption and in fact, it was one of the most interesting party I'd had till now, which I'm very glad for because whether it's a coincidence or not, this would be the last hanami I have in Nagaoka.
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Rows of sakura trees along the roads with the pond on the left.
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One species of sakura which has branches hanging down like a curtain.
To be fair, it is not all about sakura in Yukyuzan Park.
There is a Shinto shrine at the main entrance of the park, a castle which is turned into a museum standing on a hill, and also a small mini zoo in Yukyuzan Park. What I never know before this is a Japanese garden which was hidden at one section of the park that I only noticed it recently.
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The pink sakura gives a contrasting view of the garden.
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A common decoration made of stone in a Japanese garden.

Walking up a hill will take us to the Nagaoka Museum of History.
It is just not a big building, but there are two watch towers at both ends of the building. I have never been inside the museum myself so far, but I suppose we will be able to view the whole city of Nagaoka from the tower.
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The entrance to the museum.
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Another higher tower at the opposite end.
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Same tower, different angle.
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A small lane behind the castle; while some parts of the Nagaoka city can be seen at the left.
Although there are many other parks in other parts of Japan which offer a more beautiful sight of sakura during spring like Ueno Park in Tokyo or Takada Park which I visited recently, Yukyuzan Park has a considerably quite a number of sakura trees in the park which makes it a popular spot for family and friends to have their hanami parties here.
As for the photography enthusiasts, this park definitely provide a great chance for them to have sakura shots they would love to.
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The sakura flowers here aren't as compact as other places that I've seen like Ueno Park in Tokyo for example.
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Rows of sakura trees in front of the castle.
Perhaps I have never been to many other gardens so far, because I hardy get the chance to see plum blossom. But this year, I managed to spot them at the Japanese garden in Yukyuzan Park. They remind me of the fake plastic plum blossom petals I always put on the branches for decoration purposes during Chinese New Year.
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Compared to cherry blossom, plum blossom has more petals and they are in layers.
But don't you think they look so fake?

12 comments:

MichelleG said...

so prettty!!! kirei desu!! T__T

=chuan guan= said...

its beauty..not fake

calvin said...

@ michelleg:
not as kirei as my baby though =)

calvin said...

@ =chuan guan=:
yup, you'd put it in a much better way ;)

syaza said...

hahha..macam nihonjin ja..comel, tapi fake...
bertahan seminggu...

sheryl0202 said...

O M G! I hate you lar get to see these beautiful flowers up close!!!

ahahaha...

Crabbed!! said...

>syaza
Haha...nice one. I totally agree!!

calvin said...

@ syaza:
we should be proud of our hibiscus; tak lapuk dek hujan, tak lekang dek panas =)

calvin said...

@ sheryl0202:
you can always visit japan if you wanna see sakura for yourself =)

calvin said...

@ crabbed!!:
i know you are very creative; so i thought perhaps you can think of a flower that best describe the malaysian attitude. i think you know what i mean here.

PuTrImaRyam said...

lovely....

calvin said...

@ PuTrImaRyam:
Thanks! (^.^;b