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Cities in Bloom

Every spring in Japan, sakura (cherry blossom) forecasts are played on the radio and TV, just like the weather. The arrival of the blossoms heralds a nationwide festival to celebrate the passage of the seasons, the start of spring, and the fleeting beauty of the flowers. Hanami is the main format for celebrations, involving picnics and parties beneath the cherry trees. In popular spots, people book time off work and camp out to stake claim to the sought-after sakura. It’s a land grab! Other areas are quieter, though. The festival attracts people of different ages, professions and sensibilities: there’s a collective interest in the blossoms, and it’s a national spectacle. I love nature, so I found it interesting and profound to see a mass of people paying such respect to the seasonal cycle in the urban environments of Tokyo and Kyoto, which I visited for this project. Joining in this centuries-old tradition made me feel a part of something precious. I especially liked the notion of wabi-sabi that underpins the festival: it is the philosophy of appreciating something in all its forms, and seeing beauty in imperfection.
‘Arashiyama is a district in Kyoto known for its bamboo - here, though, you see the sakura emerging at the start of spring.’
‘I was at SensŌ-ji Temple in Tokyo. A lot of people wear traditional dress during the festival and the whole event has a traditional romance. I took this shot spontaneously, as the lady turned her gaze beneath the blossom.’
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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - April 2018
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