Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Bloomwatch 2005

Many parks and other public areas in Japan are famous for their stands of flowering trees. When the trees are in bloom, they attract locals and even tourists from far away, who enjoy relaxing, ambling walks and picnics among the trees. Sounds very stress-relieving, doesn't it?


One such park is Makuyama Park, located in the town of Yugawara, in Naragawa Prefecture. The park's four thousand plum trees attract people who come to enjoy the red and white blossoms around this time of year. As of today, reports one national newspaper in Japan, roughly 70 percent of the trees have blossomed. The very fact that this sort of story would make the front page of a national newspaper is heartening. Sometimes, just reading about this sort of story allows one to take a break from it all. You can just imagine how refreshing it would be to walk among the bright pink and white blossoms.


Of course, cherry blossoms are traditionally considered the most appealing in Japan, but they won't be in bloom for a few more weeks. In fact, in the beginning of springtime, the blooming of cherry trees across the country is reported nightly on the news, like the weather or a sporting event. Newscasters talk about the "cherry blossom front" (sakura zensen), the wave of opening cherry blossoms that starts at the warmer southern end of the country and moves slowly northward with the spring weather.


But cherry trees, plum trees, and other blossoming plant life are only in bloom for a short time. Once the trees bloom, you have only a week or so to get out and enjoy them. There's a lesson there: the best things to enjoy are usually only available for a limited time. We have to make an effort to get out and enjoy them, instead of putting it off until it's too late.


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