花見

Crowds visit Shinjuku Gyoen for cherry blossom viewing despite the cold

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今年の新宿御苑の花見は、寒い天気なのに、木が好きな人が集まっていました。

These photos are from this year’s rather cold cherry blossom season, which meant easier access to some of the best spots. I love the difference in scale between the old trees and the people they attract. I also love how prepared the city is to manage the expected crowds of tree lovers.

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Arakawa river red floodgate with cherry trees in full bloom

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パナマ運河で働いたことのある日本の技師が荒川運河と水門を1920年代に建てました。花見にとても良い場所です。

A Japanese engineer who had worked on the Panama Canal created this important floodgate and canal alongside the Arakawa River in the 1920s. The red paint and the cherry blossoms make it scenic as well as functional.

UPDATE: Above is the film version, which took awhile to be developed. The colors seem much richer than the digital iPhone image below.

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Twilight cherry blossoms at Aoyama cemetery

青山霊園は、夕暮れの桜の花びらがとても素敵です。

The road through Aoyama Cemetery is lined with gorgeous old cherry trees. I went there for AQ‘s office hanami party, and on the way home I took this photo at twilight.

Mature cherry trees cross Nakameguro river. Nearly full bloom.

花見に中目黒の川はとてもきれいです。ほとんど満開でした。2012年4月6日。

Nakameguro river is one of the best spots for viewing hanami. Last Friday was approximately 80%. Much family, student, friends, and co-worker public drinking and nature appreciation!

Today it’s windy and raining, so perhaps the season is already over as the petals fall fast.

Costume company has hanami party in Yoyogi Koen

コスチューム会社の花見パーティーです。忍者や鰐やライオンや熊や兎や蛙もいました。代々木公園で。

A costume company had a big hanami party in Yoyogi Koen. There was a ninja, crocodile, lion, bear, rabbit, and frog.

Reserving a spot for the company hanami party. That’s a big blue sheet.

大きいなブルーシートの真ん中で座っている人が寂しいそうだったから、ちょっと話をしました。コンビニのビン二つを飲みながら、会社の花見パーティーのスペースを代々木公園で陣取っていました。

This guy sitting in the middle of his giant l-shaped blue sheet looked lonely so I chatted with him. He was already into his second can of convenience store booze. In Yoyogi Park.

Snowy cherry tree outside elementary school. Heavy snow makes Tokyo oddly quiet.

大雪のときに、東京は異常に静かになります。車も人の数も少なくなります。この桜は近所の小学校の入口で、もう一ヶ月くらいで咲くはず。

Less than one week later, it feels like a spring afternoon. Tokyo becomes oddly quiet during heavy snowfall. Fewer cars, fewer people outside. This cherry tree outside my local elementary school will be blooming in just one more month.

Night view and fallen petals conclude cherry blossom season

花見の季節は終わり、最後の夜の花びらの写真です。

I love this multi-petal and super-pink cherry tree growing outside my apartment building. At night, it is magical against the clouds and electric power lines. I like that the tree has been trimmed into a lollipop shape. The sight of the petals pooling up in the gutter is also strangely captivating: so pink and so transient.

Fortunately, once cherry trees have finished blooming, there is a burst of spring flowers: azalea, dogwood, lilac, iris, jasmine, and soon roses.

First sakura after great earthquake

井ノ頭公園が花見を中止するというのは、本当でしょうか。先が見えないので、みんなが不安で落ち着かないようです。

My friend Matt sent me this intricate sakura weather map: it shows the updated forecast for the start of cherry blossoms across the Japanese archipelago. Even if you can’t read Japanese, it’s impressive to see how much weather forecasting amplifies cherry blossom season.

Today I also heard from Twitter’s @Matt_Alt that there are big signs at Inokashira park Big asking visitors to refrain from holding cherry blossom viewing parties there. This is one of Tokyo’s most famous parks, and one of the most popular places for young people to celebrate spring with all night and all day drinking parties.

It’s now just over two weeks after the horrific natural and man-made disaster that began with the East Japan great earthquake. With looming energy shortages, national mourning for the dead, and continued fears about nuclear fallout, Tokyo life will not be the same. Yet it is still impossible to fully know what will emerge in the coming months and years.

Will these events increase or reverse Japan’s hyper-urbanization? How will people respond to new concerns about food and water safety? Can the government and industry regain trust and provide leadership? How can civil society contribute to rebuilding the country and restoring Japan’s international reputation?

And can public spaces and local businesses flourish in a time of anxiety and uncertainty?