Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cherry of a forecast

Even on a tree lined street leading to the McDonald's, you will find Sakura trees with blooming cherry blossoms. Not quite the most serene of locations but a Big Mac sure tastes good sitting under such beauty.

In Japan, cherry blossoms are more than just a pretty flower to look at. They are symbolic of the Buddhist's belief in the transience of life, nothing but a fleeting speck of sand in the time table of existence.

With great anticipation, each February national agencies publish forecasts based on historical data and current weather trends to narrow down the blooming time. The area I live in is forecasted for March 25, today. And they are pretty darn close. Many trees are approaching full bloom, while others are just starting to show their buds.
*Forecast map courtesy of Tenki

Cherry blossom viewing, known as hanami 花見, has been a Japanese custom since the 7th century. All throughout Japan, large cities and small countryside towns come out en masse to revel.

In reading about the history of the cherry blossom I came across the Japanese proverb, hana yori dango 花より団子, which literally means dumplings rather than flowers...practicality over aesthetics. No surprise the preferred food eaten during hanami is the dango, a slightly sweet dumpling. The cherry blossom, for all its beauty and charm, provides the perfect occasion to have a giant party full of good eats and free flowing spirits.

Cherry blossoms are looking sweeter than ever. Where's my Sapporo, I'm headed out to celebrate!