Sign of spring: Cherry Blossom Season

Although it has not been so long since the New Year began, the first Cherry Blossom season in Japan has started here in a tropical island Okinawa. 

The bright pink petals of Prunus campanulata = Taken on 16th, Yaedake, Motobu-cho
Cited from Okinawa Times

Cherry Blossom has always been symbolized as the advent of spring among the Japanese.  Anybody feels happy when cold, dark winter ends and bright, warm spring comes. 
In a tropical island Okinawa, the lowest temperature it can get is around 10 degree Celsius, so cherry blossoms start blooming earlier than any other areas in Japan.  Also, cherry blossoms found in Okinawa are different from Prunus yedoensis, most popular and generally seen all through Japan.  It is a peculiar kind of cherry, which is called Prunus campanulata whose petals are vivid pink as you can compare the photos.

Okinawa has a milder and warmer climate than any other areas in Japan, but still the temperature gets coldest in January.  As if to prove it, there is a traditional Okinawan event called, “Muchi.”

“Muchi” is a rice cake wrapped in Shell ginger leaf.  This event is practiced on December 8th of lunar calendar (falls on January 19th this year) to wish for the safety, well-being, and prosperity of the family, especially for the children’s health and growth.  The family offers Muchi to altars thanking for peaceful life and then share the offerings.  It is believed that it’s usually the coldest time of the year when “Muchi” day comes around as people say, “Muchi bi-sa,” “Cold day.”  That is why people of Okinawa become more attentive to health of their family and themselves around this time. 

During such a cold winter day, I assume that people in Okinawa would bear the cold winter wind but go through the rest of winter time as they enjoy and appreciate the beauty of cherry blossoms.

Cherry blossoms will gradually start blooming from south to north all through Japan and it will be around beginning of April when full bloom of cherry is expected around Tokyo. 

Reference: Okinawa Times

Written by
Akiko Sugahara, Tomomi Tanaka