Sakura, sakura, sakura 🌸

Sakura, cherry blossom, start burst into bloom in Kyoto.
Compare to last year, they start blooming early this year.

One reason why people in Japan love Sakura so much is the elegant, subtle shades of pink color of the petals, and how they fall. I love to get sakura shower when I bike Kamo river.

But big reason why we love Sakura so much is we see transience of life in them.
We’re wait Sakura bloom for a year, and then finally they bloom, then fall in two weeks or ten days.

In 10th century, one of the aristocrats made the poem:

散ればこそ いとど桜はめでたけれ
うき世になにか 久しかるべき


“It’s because the cherry blossom fall
That they’re beautiful in the eyes of all.
Nothing is eternal in the world we live in.”

The aristocrats saw their own mortal lives reflected in Sakura that bloom and fall too quickly.

*Reference: “Trad Japan” NHK publisher, theme-sakura

Here’s some Sakura pictures I took this week, March 25th to 31st.

When is the best time to visit Japan?

I frequently asked “When is the best time to visit Japan?”. So I’d like to answer the quetion. My opnion is based on my life in Kyoto, so North part of Japan or Southern Islands Okinawa might be different.

◆January: If you come to January 1st-3rd, you can see authentic Japanese culture. Our new year celebration is similar to authentic Christmas celebration in North America. Family gathering, go to shine to wish good luck for the new year.

◆Febuary: Cold, but in Kyoto it snow only a few days. Compare to other season, less domestic tourists. But there’s Chinese New Year holiday, so you might see more Chinese tourists in this month.

◆March: Good season, but after March 20th, Japanese schools ends, so you’ll see more domestic family tourists. At the end of March, Sakura cherry blossom starts blooming. Even you couldn’t see Sakura, cherry blossom, you’ll see Ume, plum flower blooming.

◆April: Around April 1st, Sakura cherry blossom bloom. It last only a week to two weeks. Short life- that is one of the reason why people in Japan love Sakura so much.
(My last post “Why people in Japan love Sakura so much?”

◆May: Good season. But it’s better to avoide May 2nd-5th. It’s “Golden Week” in Japan. We have a few national holidays in a row, and people travel a lot.

◆June: Early June is ok. But late June, we have “Tsuyu 梅雨” rainy season. Also it’s going to be humid.

◆July: Early July is still rainy season. After rainy season, it’s going to be hot and humid. In Kyoto, we have big traditional festival called “Gion-matsuri” which have 1,110 years history. All days of July, some events related to Gion-matsuri held.
(My last post “Gion Matsuri Festival that has 1,100 years history”

◆August: Hot and humid. In the middle of August we have “Obon” period. People believe our ansester’s spirit come back in this period and spend time with thier original family. So many people go back to their home town, and it’s going to be crowded. Also schools in Japan are holidays in this month, so you’ll see lots of kids.

◆September: It’s a tyhoon season experially Okinawa, and Kyushu, but sometimes main land too.

◆October: Good season.

◆November: It’s getting cold. In Kyoto, you’ll see leaves’ color change beutiful.
And because of that, there is more domestic tourists.

◆December: Cold, but if you don’t mind, you can see Christmas atmospher and traditional Japanese New Year atmospher both.

When I was living Kyoto 2008-2011, I had an impression that only March, April, some festival season in July and August, and October to November are crowded. But recently, after Kyoto selected No. 1 destination on “Travel + Leisure magazine” in 2014 and 2015, almost all the season it’s crowded in  touristic areas, like 清水寺 Kiyomizu-temple, or 金閣寺 Kinkakuji-temple.

But in 2016, Kyoto became No.6 in the award. I personally feel that it is became too crowded in some places. One of the beauty in Kyoto is you can see historical and mordan site, nature and city, silence and lively close each other. But recently it became bit difficult to find places that I can feel peceful silence because of the tourists. For example, “哲学の道 Tetsugaku no michi”, Philosopher’s Path is one of my favorite place. The area has that name because a professor of Kyto university took a walk every day that path to think about Pholosophy. It was quite, peaceful area. But recently I went there, but I feel it’s impossible to think about something seiuos because it’s crouded. If it’s noisy, the place’s charm become less than half.

So I think that Kyoto, we have to think about what kind of tourists we want, and which country to promote. Quality is very important. Do we want bus tour tourists who vist only famous places quick and gone? or indivisual tourists who appreciate our culture, and try to understand and experience it as much as possible?
I often disscuss about this kind of topic with frineds in Kyoto.

How do you cerebrate Christmas in Japan?

Some of my students asked me
“How do you cerebrate Christmas in Japan?”
Well, good question.

I would say, for most of Japanese people,
Christmas is a foreign festival, so it’s more like a commercial holidays.

*About religion in Japan, you can read
What is Japanese people’s religion?

There’s some Christian in Japan.
Also, there’s many Christian kindergartens,
schools, universities.
I myself went to christian University and I’ve worked YMCA for a while, so
I know the basic ideas of Christianity.
So most of the people in Japan knows it’s a birth day of Jesus Christ, but
for most of them, it’s not religious holiday, but just foreign festival.

Especially 1980’s and 90’s, when Japan’s economy was good,
Many companies try to advertise Christmas as
“Day to spend time with your someone special” and then,
somewhat they interpret Christmas as day for lovers.

Then jewelry shop tried to sell jewelry,
Cake shop tied to sell “Christmas cake”
KFC tried to sell “Christmas Chicken”

Luckily, I could spend warm authentic Christmas holidays in Prince Edward, Canada.
I got handmade cookies, scarf, and mittens from my coworkers, went to Church for Christmas Eve Mass,
and was invited my friends family gathering.
I prefer these warm authentic Christmas rather than commercial one.

Although, we do have warm authentic family gathering holidays in Japan, too.
It’s new years holiday.
I’ll write about it next time.

(the photo is Christmas tree at a super market in Japan)

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