A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom, but Few Revellers in the Aftermath of the Great Quake and Tsunami

A somber sight- cherry trees in full bloom in a park on a fine day with NO REVELLERS, in the aftermath of the great earthquake

By Avi Landau


I had never seen anything like it. A small park  surrounded by cherry trees (sakura) in full bloom on a beautiful April day at lunch time- with none of the traditional revellers ( in this case, groups of mothers with kids) who would usually be seen picnicking under the blossoms under such conditions.

A sad and lonely sight, indeed.

Though eating and drinking ( often accompanied by singing and carousing) under the sakura when their flowers are at their best is a cornerstone of Japanese culture eagerly anticipated by just about everyone each year- this time, in the aftermath of the great earthquake and horrific tsunami which struck Japan on March 11th, these trees, which our now exploding in their full glory, are standing very much alone.

There was no media build-up  following the progression of the CHERRY BLOSSOM FRONT as it moved across the Japanese archipelago, a usual feature of early spring, nor could we find the usual ads promoting famous cherry spots  which would usually have adorned the train stations at this time of year ( one of my favorite places, which features ONE ancient and magnificent tree, is unfortunately located in Miharu, in Fukushima Prefecture- not far from the damaged nuclear plant).

And now , as the sakura have achieved MANKAI ( full bloom), if there ARE any people doing HANAMI ( having a cherry party) at all, there is none of the revelry or ribaldbry which makes the tradition so unique- it is a quiet, solemn affair.

This is only natural. With what happened last month, no 0ne is really in the mood for a traditional cherry blossom party. And more to that, there are concerns about radiation ( in fact one foreign resident of Tsukuba who did go out to enjoy the cherries this past weekend, cut his outing short after having checked the direction the wind was blowing- right in from Fukushima Prefecture)- which despite the fact that the levels are NOT dangerous to our health ( as we have been assured) still makes it creepy and uncomfortable to linger outdoors for long.

As I walked around the perimeter of the park beneath the pink canopy created by the blossoms, I thought about the PASSING NATURE OF ALL THINGS (MUJO,無常), which these short lived flowers represent. And though the delicate petals would all be gone in a few days, I knew that they would be back next year, the year after that, and the year after that……..

and by that time, the rebuilding of Japan, and the healing of our damaged spirits will already have been well underway-

and you can bet that the traditional revellers will be back with the blossoms.

Forlorn cherry trees in Tsukuba, one month after the great quake


I have written about what makes HANAMI ( cherry blossom viewing parties) unique:


and also about the great cherry tree in MIHARU, Fukushima Prefecture:



  • Julien says:

    Hello Avi !

    I would like to share this as i find it quite explicit. It answered to some questions i had.

    It is sad that this year’s hanami won’t be as joyful and attended as usual. I hope the next one will be great !

    And everybody, hang on !

  • Mamoru Shimizu says:

    Last Sunday 32 days past since the big Earthquakes, we have had around 1000 aftershocks bigger than magnitude 3. I and my wife went to see famous cherry-blossoms along side Otto-pond which located 4km south of Doho-park where I am serving as a volunteer for evacuees, decreased from 319 to 30, almost all of them went back to Iwaki-city which located 40-50km from the troublesome nuclear plant. It does not look to burst again at the moment. I am praying that it would be under control securely.
    Inside Otto-pond Park we met more than one thousand people enjoying cherry blossom and a few of them doing barbecue, singing songs. We saw several fishing people and one of them just catched a good size fish and release it. We can not image that there are people in north east part of Japan 500 km-1000km from here have their family washed away or lost their homes. And also there are people who had to leave from their homes because their houses located inside 30km from the nuclear plant.

    We got tired of seeing in TV etc so many tragedy sights and heard so many tragedy stories, so now in TV there are programs of singing or laughing. And we alday began everyday works and studies, for example I went activities of men’s chorus and mixed chorus, folkdance, studying Chinese between my volunteering work at Gymnasium of preparing foods, advising for shopping, going doctors etc.

    I mean even in such a bad feeling of disaster, we need something to enjoy, something to laugh and some nice thing to view. Cherry blossom is the best for that purpose.