In the field, there stands a flower peach tree, covered in flowers from its base to its head. Its gracefulness is simply overwhelming. The flower peach is a variety of peach that has been cultivated for its ornamental flowers, and it reaches its peak bloom season around the time when cherry blossoms bloom. Peaches have been considered to bring good luck and ward off disasters in China since ancient times, and they are said to have been introduced to Japan during the Yayoi period. There are two types of peach trees: those that produce fruit and those that produce flowers. Fruit-bearing peaches have been cultivated and used as food since ancient times, but during the Heian period, the Peach Festival on March 3rd was established, and the viewing of peach blossoms became popular. Although peaches have been beloved by the Japanese people since ancient times, the cultivation of ornamental flower peach trees did not begin until the Edo period. Today, there has not been much progress in the breeding of flower peach varieties, and most of the cultivated horticultural varieties are those developed during the Edo period. There are several tree forms, including upright, drooping, and broom-like, and some varieties do produce fruit, but they are not suitable for consumption.
It has been almost a week since the cherry blossom declaration was announced, but the nearby cherry blossoms are only about 70% in bloom. The morning temperature is around 5-6 degrees Celsius, and during the day it is around 15 degrees, so there is a feeling of “Hanabie (flower cold)” . It’s too much trouble to go outside when it’s cold, and I tend to stay indoors. However, the sunshine that shines through the window feels warm and I tend to doze off. And the dream I had was like the picture as an image. A dream is a kind of hallucination that feels like a real experience during sleep. There are still many things that are not understood about sleep, but it has been found that there are REM sleep and non-REM sleep in brain activity during sleep, and in 1957 it was revealed that dreams are mainly observed during the REM sleep state. It seems that an average of 3-5 dreams are seen in one night, and incoherent dreams may be a result of overlapping of these 3-5 dreams.
Yesterday, March 26th (Sunday), it rained cold throughout the country, making it Hanabie (cherry blossom chill). Even in Osaka, the temperature hardly rose from morning and stayed at around 13 degrees Celsius throughout the day, making it a cold day. Despite this, reports have come in from various parts of the country that the cherry blossoms have bloomed earlier than ever recorded. It is said that even in Washington D.C., USA, the cherry blossoms that were sent from Japan are blooming one week to ten days earlier than usual, causing quite a stir. Today, the rain has stopped in the morning, and although it is still chilly, the sunlight shining through the window is the warmth of spring. There are many beautiful words associated with cherry blossoms, such as “Hanabie”, “Hanahubuki” (cherry blossom storm), and “Hanaikada” (cherry blossom raft). I am looking forward to finding more ways to express the beauty of cherry blossoms as they continue to bloom.
The sakura information released by the Japan Meteorological Agency has also changed from the announcement of the blooming to the announcement of full bloom. Tokyo, which was the first to declare the start of blooming, had already reached full bloom on the 22nd. Osaka is still at around 80% blooming and is expected to reach full bloom on the 28th, two days from now. This year’s blooming is breaking records everywhere, but there have also been instances of cold weather that make it feel like winter again, even after having had summer-like days. The blooming period is likely to be prolonged as a result. With the lifting of restrictions due to the pandemic, we see people having picnics under the full-bloomed cherry blossom trees on television. There are also more foreign tourists, and it seems that the lively atmosphere of the past is gradually returning. This year, we hope for a full recovery.
Amidst many daffodils blooming with their heads held low, I noticed a daffodil blooming with a straight, upward gaze. They seem to be declaring a fresh start, signaling the end of the COVID-19 pandemic this year. The Japanese narcissus, which bloomed continuously since the end of last year, has passed its peak, and now the daffodils are in full swing. Both types of narcissus are said to originate from the Mediterranean coast of Europe, but the Japanese narcissus has taken root in Japan since ancient times and has been named accordingly. In Europe, when people say “narcissus,” they usually refer to daffodils, which are also depicted in ancient Greek wall paintings. The scientific name of narcissus is Narcissus, which is famously derived from Greek mythology. The legend says that Narcissus, a young man, fell in love with his own reflection in a pool and turned into a narcissus flower, gazing at his own reflection, hence why all narcissus flowers seem to hold their heads low.
By the time cherry blossoms usually fall, the flowers of the Hana-Zuou tree are in bloom. They stand beside an inconspicuous shrine in the mountains, adding spring colors to the quiet shrine. The flowering period of the Hana-Zuou tree is usually around April, and it blooms abundantly with pinkish-purple flowers before the leaves come out. The appearance of the flower is favored by the Japanese, but even though it belongs to the same Hana-Zuou genus, it is famous in the West as a tree with negative legends and flower language. It is derived from the story of Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples, who regretted his sin after betraying Jesus and took his own life under the Hana-Zuou tree. From such a legend, scary flower language such as “betrayal” and “unfaithfulness” was given. It’s a nuisance story for flowers, isn’t it?
When it comes to flowers, it’s cherry blossoms, and when it comes to cherry blossoms, it’s the Somei Yoshino. Starting with the Kanhi-zakura in Okinawa in January, and then the Kawazu-zakura in February, the Somei Yoshino in March, and the Ooyama-zakura in Hokkaido in May, the new spring in Japan looks like the whole country is overwhelmed with cherry blossoms alone. Among them, the Somei Yoshino stands out. When it comes to the declaration of blooming or the cherry blossom front, it’s all about the Somei Yoshino. The Somei Yoshino was named after being promoted by horticulturists from Somei Village in Edo during the late Edo period, but it spread nationwide during the high economic growth period after the war. Until then, the Yama-zakura, which has been familiar to the Japanese people since ancient times, was the cherry blossom of choice. The cherry blossom previously associated with flower viewing was the Yama-zakura. The “Yoshino cherry blossom” famous for being depicted by many poets and painters, including Saigyō, is also 80% Yama-zakura. Cherry blossoms that bloom in mountainous regions are sometimes referred to as “yamazakura,” but Yama-zakura is a particular type of cherry blossom and is one of Japan’s 11 “basic wild species.
Great Yamato, of all lands most supreme! Enclosed by ranks of verdant banks on surrounding hills, Great Yamato unmatched for beauty! Yamato Takeru, the son of Emperor Keikō, the twelfth emperor of Japan, was a skilled warrior who conquered the Kumaso and Izumo regions in the west in a blink of an eye. He was then ordered to lead an expedition to the east, where he achieved victory after victory, ultimately bringing peace to the region. Finally, on his way back to his beloved homeland of Wa, he fell ill and passed away at Mt. Ibuki. His parting poem was this waka, as he transformed into a white swan and flew towards Yamato. “Mahoroba” is a beautiful word in the Yamato language, representing the graceful and elegant land of Japan.
Today is a holiday for the Spring Equinox. It is designated as a national holiday under the Holiday Law, and the moment when the sun passes the vernal equinox point is defined as the “spring equinox”. The day that includes the spring equinox is called “Shunbun”, which is designated as a day to “praise nature and cherish living things”. By the way, “Shubun” is designated as a day to “honor ancestors and remember those who have passed away”. In the 24 solar terms, the seven days from March 18th to 24th are designated as “Shunbun”, also known as the “spring equinox week”. Today is the middle day of that “spring equinox week”. In the old calendar, it was designated as the day of the “Spring Imperial Ancestral Festival”, which is still one of the ceremonies held in the Imperial Palace every year, as part of the major festival held twice a year on the Spring Equinox and Autumn Equinox (Autumnal Imperial Ancestral Festival). In ancient agricultural societies, where agriculture was the center of life, this day was also very important for determining the timing of planting crops. On this day, people eat “Botamochi” (sticky rice cake filled with sweet bean paste), and together with “Ohagi” (sweet bean paste mixed with glutinous rice) eaten on Autumnal Equinox Day, the red beans are believed to have a purifying effect and are offered as an offering to ancestors.
On March 19th, the Osaka Regional Meteorological Observatory announced that cherry blossoms (sakura, specifically the Somei Yoshino variety) had bloomed in Osaka City. This is reportedly the earliest blooming in recorded history, tying with 2021. The standard for confirming bloom is “5-6 or more” flowers on a specimen tree in the Nishinomaru Garden of Osaka Castle. The bloom was four days earlier than last year and eight days earlier than average. The concern now is when the blossoms will be in full bloom and how long they will continue to bloom. Typically, cherry blossoms reach full bloom about a week after they begin to bloom. Because the flowers are firmly attached for about 10 days after blooming, they are unlikely to fall off in strong winds or rain. It usually takes more than 10 days after blooming for a “flower storm” to occur. If there is no particularly heavy rain or strong wind, cherry blossoms can be enjoyed for about three weeks from the time they bloom. Moreover, if the temperature is low during this period, the flowers can last even longer and may be enjoyed for up to a month. Finally, the cherry blossom season is about to begin.