Sakura: When the cherry trees bloom
EACH YEAR, those of us who live near High Park in Toronto watch in anticipation for those few short days when the cherry trees burst into glorious bloom. The trees were a gift from the Japanese ambassador to Canada in 1959 and there are two places in the park with a high concentration of them: one, near the Japanese garden and Grenadier Restaurant; and two, near the children’s playground and the bottom of the zoo.
When cherry trees blossom, they look like fluffy pink clouds. A small miracle that expresses happy truths about the beauty of nature. They are not only delightful to behold, but they carry cultural significance for the many people in Toronto of Asian heritage (especially Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese) and they are an augur of spring.
This year, Toronto’s wildly unpredictable weather gave us a boon: for about a week, we were blessed with warm, summer-like weather, and the trees burst into blossom over the weekend. Hordes crowded the park, to sit under the trees, to get their photos taken, and to enjoy the spectacle. It reminded me of the year I lived in Japan. Cherry blossom (sakura) viewing, know as Hanami, is the highlight of Golden Week — the festival season in Japan.
From what I understand, the epitome of Hanami is to sip chilled sake (rice wine) under a cherry blossom tree, and have one delicate blossom fall gently into your cup. This is Hanami nirvana. In fact, my friends and I tried this, and a blossom fell VERY close to my small cup of sake, so I picked it up and dropped it in!
To be honest, though the weekend weather and the blooms were perfect, the crowds of people — especially the vast numbers of cars — made the experience less-than-serene. In fact, it was a bit comical — trying to have a sublime moment with nature while cars were spewing noise and pollution and people were filling the garbage cans with refuse and climbing onto the trees (in one case, breaking a large branch).
I had to return several times over the course of three days to get some good photos that were not crowded with people. Going at about 8 am on Monday morning did the trick.
TIP: My advice is to go in the morning and do not drive. There are few parking spots and a long line of cars choking the park with fumes. Also, please pay attention to the signs and DO NOT climb the trees or snap branches. Enjoy!
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