It’s that time of year again. The sakura trees are blooming and blossom-viewing fever has gripped the populace as certain parks and waterways and avenues are invaded for hanami. It’s easy to be cynical, but the delicate beauty of the somei-yoshino trees in full bloom and the ephemerality of their blossoms is a major work of poetry — created by nature and repeated verse after verse as the blossom season spreads across the country — and in Japan especially the spectacle has long been an inspiration for the poets.

Sakura, sakura
they fall in the dreams
of sleeping beauty
—Yosa Buson

What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.
—Kobayashi Issa

Thanks for all
Expressing my gratitude to blossoms
at the parting.
—Matsuo Basho

On this topic: a fascinating deep dive by Naoko Abe into Japan’s cherry trees and the culture surrounding the ubiquitous somei-yoshino — or you can dip into a short photo essay of mine from a few years ago.




While I can appreciate the romantic notions of winter, I barely tolerate its harsh reality. And so with the initial stirrings of spring, things start to look a whole lot better.

Risshun (立春)—according to Japan’s traditional calendar, the one that famously comprises 72 micro-seasons that poetically label natural transitions throughout the year—is the marker that announces the start of spring in early February. Right on cue, the sun has upped its intensity a notch and temperatures have risen slightly, while the plum trees have already started to blossom and the days are noticeably a little longer. Although it’s too early to pack away winter coats, it feels good to know there are some increasingly pleasant days ahead. These photos of jizō statues and ume blossoms at a local temple were taken during risshun.