(Photo from: http://sakura.weathermap.jp/)
At first glance, it might seem like a weather forecast. In fact, it is a “sakura-blossoming forecast”!
The colors in the map show how far the flowers have blossomed up to the day (March 14th in this case), and the dates below each city name shows when the trees will fully bloom. You might have heard of Japanese people celebrating the arrival of spring under a cherry tree and its cultural significance, but many of you might be surprised to realize that we even have a forecast of it. And yes, it is THAT IMPORTANT.
Levels of Blooming
As you can tell from the forecast news, Japanese people just can’t wait to see their national icon bloom every spring. While waiting for the pink petals to dance in the air, they keep track of the level of blossoms each year.
At first, sakura flowers are just buds on the branch. You might not expect much of a hype at this level, but considering that these buds had waited for months under the cold Japanese winter, just seeing these buds come out get people delighted. It is a sign that spring is just around the corner.
After few weeks, the buds start to flourish and start to look like it should. However, Japanese people call this state “7-bu-zaki”, or “70% blossomed”. By this time, people start to keep track of the sakura-forecast on the daily news, waiting not-so-patiently for the party to begin.
When the flowers have fully bloomed, the excitement reaches its peak with people taking pictures everywhere they see a cherry tree, start scheduling “hanami” or the cherry tree picnics with their friends and colleagues. And the picture explains why. It is absolutely breathtaking.
Official Reference Trees For Each Prefecture
Now you might be wondering: “How do they know decide whether the flowers have fully bloomed or not?”
The answer is, there are official reference trees at every prefecture where they declare the blossoming of all the sakura in that region. For instance, the reference tree of Tokyo is the one inside Yasukuni Shrine.
I hope this gave you an idea of how important the sakura is for this nation. We’ll be waiting for you to come celebrate this great season with us, under the cherry trees.