By: Naomi Matlow
Header photo by Patrick Elliott
Tokyo 2020 is literally plastered all over the world these days. The upcoming Summer Olympic Games aside, welcoming the Northern Hemisphere’s spring season in Tokyo is just as noteworthy an international celebration.
We can’t wait to welcome Unsettlers to Tokyo this March 14th – 21st for a week of urban exploration. For one week we will explore the hidden side of Tokyo’s unique neighborhoods, and our mouths are already watering!
Shinseikatsu & Spring in Japan
For many Japanese, it is not January 1st that marks the beginning of a new year, it is March and the arrival of the spring that does. In countless countries, religions, and cultures, spring is the quintessential time of renewal and symbolic of new life. All of the important cultural events in the Japanese calendar that happen during the springtime are known as “Shinseikatsu”, translated as, “new life activity”.
March marks the end of the school year for children in Japan and it is also a time where many begin new jobs or move into new homes. Change is absolutely in the air this time of year in Japan, and that is only in part due to the blooming cherry blossoms.
A Japanese Symbol of Renewal
The annual blooming of the cherry blossom, known in Japanese as sakura, is an annual celebration in Japan and has been one for centuries. Beyond their ephemeral beauty, the symbolism of the sakura is unique unto itself.
According to the Library of Congress, the fact that the sakuras bloom very briefly, like a weeklong flash of beauty, is a metaphor for the fleeting nature of life on earth. The patience required to bear witness to the magic of the cherry blossoms adds to their treasured beauty and appreciation. Japanese culture has a storied history of “flower viewing”, known as hanami (‘hana’ means flowers and ‘mi’ means viewing). Who else thinks we need more cultural events that celebrate patience and impermanence?
The cherry blossom viewing parties of today began in Tokyo during the 16th century. All that is required to practice this tradition is friends and a picnic to enjoy under the blooming sakura trees. These celebrations of nature and community spread from being an event solely practiced by the aristocracy to one enjoyed by commoners, as Japan was experiencing a relatively peaceful time on the whole in the 16th century. Are you ready for some peaceful picnics in the Tokyo spring sunshine?