Just before i came to Japan a few years ago I read a book called ‘Hokkaido Highway Blues‘ by some Canadian called Will Ferguson who hitch-hiked from the south tip of Japan to the most northern part. He was following the cherry blossom trail which meant absolutely b*gger all to me. I enjoyed the hitching tales but never really got a grasp of what this ‘sakura‘ (cherry blossom) was all about.
Anyway, at present it is ‘Hanami‘ in Tokyo (it only lasts for short period of time) which is where all the Japanese people get very excited about seeing the sakura and have parties in the many parks and gardens. Basically, just part of the Japanese culture and a calendar event which gives (even more) reason to get sozzled in a public place while enjoying the blooming flowers. The flowers just create a nice background and setting for the more serious business of drinking……………in my opinion!! No doubt millions of Japanese would disagree with me!
Having not particpated in such activity before I finally got my arse into gear and joined the masses on Saturday night in Ueno Park. This is Tokyo’s biggest park but not necessarily the best for sakura viewing. Absolutely thousands of people lined an avenue sitting under the trees on their cardboard mats and proceeded to drink and eat their way through the day.
Despite the crowds of people the place was still kept in very good condition with lots of bins provided for waste which the Japanese people actually use whereas in the UK we would maybe just dump it on the ground. Even though they are outside and sitting on a tarp they still tend to take off their shoes before they step on it.
My party of two arrived at 7:30 pm and we walked along the walkway drinking my six-pack of Asahi beer but we was quite shocked when there was an announcement at 8pm saying that it was over and the lights that lit up the cherry blossoms were gradually turned off. “Auld Lang Syne” then came over the public address system as happens often in Japan to signal it is finishing time. Although many people left for once a lot of people ignored it (Japanese people tend to live by and accept rules whereas we westerners usually want to break or push the rules as far as we can) and carried on regardless through the night.