What does Sakura mean in english?
Japan is a nation known for its fantastic festivals and annual celebrations, but perhaps none is more famous than the festivities that accompany the arrival of the cherry blossoms each spring. From late March through early May, cherry blossoms bloom across Japan, welcoming spring with a burst of color unlike any other. For those teaching English in Japan, the arrival of the cherry blossoms is a certain highlight of their stay in Japan, one of the top job markets in Asia and the world for teaching English abroad.
The beauty of the cherry blossom is a potent symbol of spring and rebirth in Japanese culture that has been celebrated throughout the ages. There are a variety of cherry blossoms, but the most popular and celebrated in Japan is a variety known as sakura, which does not produce fruit.
Cherry blossom season in Japan generally begins in southern Japan in late March. Every year the Japanese Meteorological Agency tracks the cherry blossom season as it moves northward up the archipelago with the arrival of warmer spring weather. It commences in the subtropical island of Okinawa and typically reaches Kyoto and Tokyo at the end of March or the beginning of April, arriving in the northern island of Hokkaido several weeks later.
The Traditions of Hanami
The term Hanami refers to the thousand year-old Japanese custom of celebrating the blooming of cherry blossoms (and sometimes plum blossoms) and the rebirth of spring. Hanami literally means “flower viewing” and traditionally is celebrated over a picnic, perhaps a bottle of sake, or simply relaxing amidst the blossoming trees in a local park or garden with friends, family or a significant other. In addition, throughout spring in Japan, Hanami Festivals are held across the nation. Here some of the most famous locales for enjoying cherry blossoms across Japan:
- Hirosaki - The historic 17th-century castle of Hirosaki, which is surrounded by gardens and parks, complete with beautiful moats lined with more than 2500 sakura trees, is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful spots in Japan to admire the blooming of the cherry blossoms. Because Hirosaki is located at the northern end of the main Japanese island of Honshu, the local festival typically runs near the end of the season from April 23 to May 5.
- Nara Prefecture - Perhaps the most awe-inspiring cherry blossoms in Japan can be found in Nara Prefecture at Yoshino-Yama Mountain, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to more than 30, 000 cherry trees. Cherry blossom celebrations in Nara are very spiritual in nature as the region is home to a variety of sites sacred to the Buddhist, Shinto and Taoist faiths, including many historic temples. The festival is held between April 10 and 12 each year.
- Osaka - The serene beauty of cherry blossoms can even be experienced in heart of Japan's most most modern and urban cities. In Osaka, the 17th-century Osaka Castle is surrounded by thousands of cherry and plum blossoms and the Osaka Mint Bureau, which oversees the production of coins and medals in Japan, hosts gardens that are home to more than 100 different varieties of cherry blossoms. The grounds are typically closed to the public, but during one week a year at the height of sakura blossom in mid-April the famous tree-lined walkway is open to the general public.
- Ueno Park, Tokyo - The famous Ueno Park in central Tokyo, adjacent to Ueno Station, becomes an oasis of stunning natural beauty in the heart of the the world's largest city each year when spring arrives and 1, 200 cherry trees burst into bloom. Other top locales in the Japanese capital for viewing the cherry blossoms include the Zoological Gardens (founded in 1882, it is the oldest zoo in Japan), the National Science Museum and the Tokyo Museum. The city-wide festival opens on March 28 and the best viewing is typically between April 5 to the 14.
Each spring the stunning natural beauty of the spring cherry blossoms becomes intertwined with the rich and ancient culture of Japan to produce an spectacle like no other. Teaching English in Japan provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience this amazing combination of culture and natural beauty as a local!
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