Friday, April 27, 2012

Lovely Sakura Of Chidorigafuchi

"When I see cherry blossom, I see hope. 
I look at them and know that they'll bloom no matter what."

"The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom"

Beautiful, but not showy. That is what I can describe the cherry blossom, or more commonly known as sakura. It has been almost a couple of years since I get to admire the beauty of sakura. Japan was still in shock with the triple disaster that struck the nation last year, that the celebrations for this flower, considered a symbol of hope among the Japanese were kept at minimal. At the same time, I extended my stay in Malaysia and by the time I returned, the petals had fell.

This year, it was like a reunion with a long-lost love with sakura. But unlike the previous years before this, we can freely plan for a hanami trip anytime in the past. Now, I have only two days in the weekends that I get to make any plans for say, a sakura photography outing.


One thing about sakura is it takes a whole year to bloom, but it will be gone in just matters of days. That is what that make me fascinated with them, not just their obvious beauty but the process it goes through. After the seemingly endless waiting for winter to be over, the sakura is much anticipated by people come spring. However, sakura hardly stays for more than a fortnight, and the length will become even shorter if there's rain or strong wind through the week. That is one reason why it is more charming; it is its brief beauty that brings lasting happiness.

After a enjoyable hanami with the Malaysians gang at Yoyogi Park on Saturday, I planned for a photography outing the next day. One of the best spot for sakura viewing in Tokyo would be in Chidorigafuchi (千鳥ヶ淵). It is the area in Tokyo that boasts of having the largest number of people coming to view the glorious sakura during the beginning of April.


Some university were too smart to have their entrance ceremony at Nippon Budokan on that day, which ultimately doubled the crowd =.=

The only other time I saw such a dense people in an area would be during the fireworks festivals in summer. The sea of human there was beyond explanation. I don't even know where these people come from. It started all the way from the Tokyo Metro subway station, where they already started to close of some of the exits which are crowded. The movement of the crowd was so slow that I guess even the tortoise moves faster. I kid you not. It takes like more than a minute just to walk a couple of meters. 

It was one of the times I wished I had Doraemon's bamboo chopper (takekoputa) which I can just fix onto my head and fly of from the human traffic jam haha!


 At the entrance to Kita-no-maru Park (北の丸公園).


 Branches of fully bloomed sakura trees reaching out.


 A great contrast between the sakura and blue sky.

The period where sakura come to full bloom differs according to regions in Japan. It usually begins in mid-March from the south and slowly move northwards through the Kansai, Kanto, Tohoku and finally Hokkaido in May. The best time to view sakura in Tokyo would usually be the first week of April. One important thing to keep in mind is that sakura opening dates vary every year, much depending on the weather.

A classic spot for viewing the sakura, Chidorigafuchi is part of the moat surrounding the former Edo Castle, conveniently located at the center of Tokyo. Among the types of sakura trees there, the someiyoshino and yamazakura are the most popular ones, although they are not exactly rich in number.


 An information board about sakura supporters that helps to preserve the sakura in Chiyoda Ward.


 Veterans ladies who are the "sakura watch corps" (さくら見守り隊) lol!


 Quite a rare thing to spot a signboard written in English.

Chidorigafuchi is a very popular hanami spot. It is a moat around the Imperial Palace with many sakura trees alongside it. There are also parks, streets and passes along the moat. The contrast between the moat or the green sloping lawn and the cherry blossoms makes a magnificent view. The illuminated sakura at night allows visitors to see another spectacular aspect of the fully bloomed sakura, which are also breathtakingly beautiful.

However, unlike other parks like Yoyogi Park or Ueno Park, visitors are prohibited from bringing picnic sheet and alcohol. That means it is not possible to have sakura parties under the lovely sakura trees here. Nevertheless, visitors can still enjoy a nice soothing time among the lovely sakura trees all around.


 Everyone tries to take a photo of something special - a monument of a dragon.

Come, let me tell you an interesting tale about this moat.

Many many thousand of years ago, it is believe that a blue dragon used to live in the moat. However, on one faithful day, Mount Fuji erupted and that scared this dragon so much that he shit damn a lot. That made the soil in this area very fertile and sakura trees naturally grew by themselves along the moat. To remember the contribution of the blue dragon (and his shit; otherwise no sakura trees would have grown here), a monument was erected at one corner of this park.


 An impressive view of sakura. This is what Chidorigafuchi is all about.


 Full bloomed sakura with the moat and boats in the background.


 When the season is right, nothing beats the beauty of sakura.


 The queue for the boat ride, which is as long as two hours!

Sakura is the tree that will sympathize with you. If you want to see it as a sad thing, you can see it as a sad thing. If you want to see it as fun, you can see it as fun. You can see whatever you want to see reflected in the cherry blossom. Some people admire the cherry blossom for blooming after an earthquake. Some people resent the blossoms for looking so relaxed.

It's sad when flowers die. But when they die it's just so beautiful. There's a word "maichiru" (舞い散る) which means that when blossoms fall, they look like they're dancing. It's beautiful. Even when the flowers fall, we love it. That's the heart of a Japanese person.


Brimming with conceit,
Hiding unpleasant branches,
The proud sakura.


Your fragile petals,
Singing sweet songs with the wind,
Wet with morning dew.


With your brief beauty,
Painful anticipation,
And my agony.


At last you have shown,
The beauty I have longed for.
I reap the reward.


And I, again, love,
The beauty with pride,
Back into my arms.

The haiku on sakura above were plucked (direct translation of "dipetik" haha wtf!) from this site.

Hopefully, this spring, though this season of sakura, it will inspire the people of Japan to keep on rebuilding, the grieving to keep on loving, and for all of us to keep on supporting the Japanese people because all these patience and hardwork will be rewarded by something as beautiful as sakura and as lasting as the happiness it unselfishly shares.

Just like one of the quote from the documentary, "Human existence is a moment compared to nature. So we need to be humble and appreciative."

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