The Japanese people are very fond of cherry blossoms. The trees bloom as the weather gets warmer from late March through April. The TV news gives daily reports on how far up the Japanese Islands the flowers have bloomed. Cherry blossom trees have been planted in many places and it seems that wherever you go, the flowers are in bloom during their short blooming period of a little more than a week.
Unfortunately, the season when cherry blossoms bloom is also one of unpredictable weather, so sudden rains often knock off the flowers. Temperatures also often drop dramatically around this time, so it is not unusual to start out on a cherry blossom viewing picnic with the sun shining warmly on your back in the morning and then winding up seeing your breath in the afternoon.
Families, groups of friends, company co-workers and other types of groups often go to popular spots where the cherry blossoms are in bloom to have parties. Barbecue grills are set up, sake and beer brought out and the revelry begins. Someone from the group will often arrive early to spread out a ground tarp and "reserve" the spot for his or her group.
Once everyone arrives, the group gets busy drinking and cooking. Thin, sliced beef (forget the Mad Cow Disease), cubed beef, corn, atsuage (fried tofu), hot dogs... the menu varies, but beer and sake always seem to be served at these gatherings.
After eating and drinking, some people play badminton or play catch. Others start singing with a karaoke and yet others simply stretch out and sleep as a result of all the alcohol. Many people bring their pet dogs, so sometimes one of them will come visiting and perhaps mark a tree (hopefully not the one you're under).
Copyright 2002 A.E.L.S., Inc. (TanuTech) Billy Hammond. Reproduction without express written permission from the author is prohibited.