IMPERIAL HOTEL PHOTO

THE SUMPTUOUS SAKURA, SPRING SPECTACULAR

IMPERIAL HOTEL PHOTO

The formal arrival of the spring season in Japan begins on New Year's Day, or o-shogatsu, when everyone mails out gorgeously handwritten calligraphy to each other on greeting cards, welcoming in a "new springtime", despite the calendar indicating the date is in fact, unobligingly, January 1st. A truly splendid and widely embraced example of the reality management for which this nation is justifiably famous, this practice woos the population into an ostrich-like dismissal of the very existence of wintry frosts, lured happily into a premature mindset focused exclusively on a supposedly imminent return of warmth and ubiquitous flowerscapes.

And the most popular symbol of the beauty of the rebirth of life is surely the sakura, the magnificent cherry blossom, and the most widely celebrated flower throughout the archipelago. This is the world of the Buddhism-inspired mono-no-aware, or the pathos of evanescence, the ephemeral nature of life.

One of the best-known expressions of mono no aware, this affection for cherry blossoms is found throughout Japanese aesthetics and perpetuated by the large hordes of people who travel annually to view, picnic and drink themselves silly under the boughs. The trees are not considered to be of special value in terms of beauty in relation to other blossoming trees, such as the apple or pear; cherry blossoms are valued more for their eloquent transience, normally brought to mind by the fact that the blossoms fall off the tree after merely a week or so after first budding. It is this poignant evanescence of the beauty of the cherry blossom that evokes the perspective of mono no aware in the Japanese viewer.

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