Cherry blossoms (Sakura桜) are a national obsession in Japan. This year, things are a little different due to the earthquake and the still tenuous situation with the nuclear reactor in Fukushima, but a massive natural disaster happening on the other side of the country does not stop the cherry blossoms from blooming and if people still want to do flower viewing (Hanami 花見), then they will. Usually, at this time of year, the news is filled with updates about where the flowers have bloomed and where they will bloom next. Tourists flock to popular cherry blossom viewing sites. Good luck getting a hotel in Kyoto during cherry blossom season. Of course, this year, the country has other things on it’s mind and updates on the disaster have replaced much of the cherry blossom fervor.
But you can still find plenty of information online. For example, Yahoo Japan, has a map of cherry blossom viewing spots around Japan and has organized the current state of the cherry blossoms into 7 categories: bud (tsubomi つぼみ), beginning to bloom (sakihajime 咲き始め), half bloomed (gobunsaki ５分咲き), 70 percent bloomed (nanabunsaki ７分咲き), full bloom (mankai 満開), beginning to fall (chirihajime 散り始め), and completely gone (hazakura 葉桜). Currently most of the country is still in the bud category. (Although Yahoo also has a disclaimer on their site saying that they have yet to check on the situation of the cherry blossoms in the areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.)
Where I’m living, the cherry blossoms are a bit late this year because we had an unusually harsh winter. I’ve been told that we usually have blooms by this time of year. Also, the cherry blossom festival, one of the biggest events of the year from my city has been drastically scaled back in the wake of the disaster. The fireworks, various performances, and many of the food stalls have been canceled. They will still have limited food stalls and light the trees up at night, but that’s about it.
Here is what the trees look like as of yesterday: