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

Cherry-Blossom Blizzard ? – No, it`s real (April) snow !


Hana fubuki (cherry-blossom blizzard

Hana fubuki (cherry-blossom blizzard)


By Avi Landau

One  reason that cherry blossoms are so dear to the hearts of the Japanese is that their state of full-bloom is so short-lived, symbolizing the fleeting nature of all things. And one way the Japanese have leaned how to deal with the very limited life span of their favorite fllowers ( and life in  general) is to CHERISH EVERY MOMENT.

First there is the anticipation- in the media and in conversation. Talk of the “cherry blossom front”, that begins in southern Japan in March, and crawls northward across the archipelago though May. Then there are the excitement and daily reports (from friends and neighbors) of the various stages of bloom – first budding,  then 20% bloom, then 50%, 80%…. and then full-bloom! When this state is reached, the excitement reaches its peak- with blossoms looked at and photographed from up close and afar, by day and by night. The cherry trees in full-bloom are picnicked under, sung under, and danced under….. and most importantly…. drunk under!

Cherry-blossom rafts (Hana Ikada)

Cherry-blossom rafts (Hana Ikada) on the pond in Matsushiro Park in Tsukuba

But during all this revelry and excitement, there is always the feeling that there is a sword hanging over our heads. We are always conscious that DEATH is not far away. The regret that we feel regarding the fleeting nature of the blossoms (and all things) is called OSHIMU (惜しむ) in Japanese, and because of it we want to SAVOUR the blossoms for as long as we can- even after that begin the fall away….

And that is what I was planning on doing today- enjoying some HANA FUBUKI – cherry blossom blizzards, the gentle storms of pink petals which rain down (and sometimes up!) whenever a breeze blows (or even when there is none).

Cherry blossom petal mingle on the ground with fallen camelia flowers

Cherry blossom petal mingle on the ground with fallen camelia flowers

There are also the cherry blossom carpets to look forward to – forming so many patterns (on the ground and in ponds and rivers), sometimes in combination with other fallen flowers… camelia (and a rare treat this year…. magnolia).

Cherry Rafts

A mass of cherry Rafts forms a carpet on the Shinkai River in Tsuchiura

Already from last night, I had taken out my anthologies of Japanese poetry, going through pag e after pages of works on falling cherry blossoms (referred to as RAKKA 落花, CHIRUSAKURA 散る桜, HANA FUBUKI 花吹雪, or SAKURA FUBUKI 桜吹雪), or floating cherry blossoms (HANA IKADA 花筏 – literally: Cherry-blossom rafts).

After spending an hour or so before falling asleep immersing myself in such works ( ranging from the sublime to the incomprehesible) I was all prepared the next morning to go for an early morning walk- over petal covered walkways, by petal-covered ponds, as the cherry petals rained o`er me.

falling cherry-blossoms

Falling cherry-blossoms

So after having risen from my futon, I threw open the curtains and could not believe my eyes! Had I been reading too many poems of scattering cherry blossoms?- Was I hallucinting? Before me, I saw before me what seemed to be a great flurry of  blossoms…passing right by my window!

I rubbed my eyes…… gave my face a light slap….and took a longer look…… No, it was not a cherry-blossom blizzard…… it was real snow…. on April 8th 2015…. the first April snow in Tsukuba in 5 years…….

Stepping outside, my body stiffened up as the frigid air seeked in under my coat. After so many days of fine spring whether this was a real “downer”. I might have even let out an audible groan.

As I headed to the park I continued to grumble under my breath, cursing the gods.. and fate.

Cherry-petal ground-scapes in Tsukuba

Cherry-petal ground-scapes in Tsukuba

But then when I stood under the cherry-trees, I realized that April snow, so rare in Tsukuba, is also something to be cherished and savored….

and I stood there watching flakes come down, not  knowing what was it was that was falling..


April storm…. in one palm… a snowflake, in the other…. a cherry-petal ! (Avi Landau)


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