Finally, the slightly bitter Tokyo winter is almost over! Spring in Tokyo is a big deal, like I’m guessing is the case in most places that have some semblance of distinguishable seasons. Of course, one of the special reasons to look forward to it in Tokyo is the annual blooming of the cherry blossoms (sakura). There’s lots of parties where people go and sit under the trees and drink beer, so it’s a time of year where your social calendar can involve quite a bit of that. The blooming is spectacular, but only lasts for two short weeks.
Not wanting to waste a beautiful spring day indoors, I had a chance to visit Shinjuku Central Park this weekend. A green oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle of Tokyo, it’s a welcome and refreshing change of pace. The crowds had already started to enjoy the spring weather, laying out tarps and enjoying packed lunches and beer in the big open spaces around the trees. As popular as it was, my friend told me the place would just about be packed to overflowing by next weekend when the trees lit up in their vivid whites and pinks.
Even though we were there a bit early, there was at least one early bloomer getting some attention:
Nearby, a group of people had started a game of jump rope. Others started to join in from neighboring groups, and there was a really relaxed, party vibe happening. Given Japan’s general reserve and incredible work ethic (more on that later), there was something especially joyous about seeing strangers joining in and enjoying the simple pleasures of jumping over a rope holding a can of beer or blowing their lungs out on a whistle like it was Mardi Gras time in Rio:
Hanami (flower-watching) season is also particularly significant to me, because it marks the anniversary of my arrival to Japan. More on that later, though…