The Japanese have a springtime custom known as “Hanami” (flower viewing), which author Ann McClellan explains in her book, The Cherry Blossom Festival: Sakura Celebration, dates back to the eighth century. That’s when the Japanese adopted the Chinese Tang Dynasty practice of taking time to enjoy spring flowers. Over the following few centuries the Japanese recognized the popularity of the cherry blossoms. They selectively cultivated the Sakura cherry tree to produce white star-shaped flower petals that fade to a soft pink hue before they fall.
The Japanese Hanami tradition involves romantic walks and family picnics beneath the blossoms and countless photographs. It’s a celebration of spring. McClellan explains that in Japanese legend, each spring, a fairy maiden Konohana-sakuya-hime, wakes the trees from their winter slumber with her delicate breath. The short-lived bloom, lasting only a few weeks, symbolizes the beauty and transient nature of life.
If you missed Washington D.C.’s famous Cherry Blossom Festival in March, you can still enjoy the blossoms right here at home. Both Brampton and Mississauga have their own spectacular blossom displays. South of Brampton’s downtown on the west side of Main Street, Joyce Archdekin Park is home to a stretch of Sakura cherry trees donated to Brampton in 2002 on behalf of the Sakura Committee Chairman Takashi Koezuka, Consul General of Japan in Toronto. And in Mississauga just south of Burnhamthorpe Road, west of Hurontario Street, Kariya Park boasts mature Sakura trees and landscaped Japanese gardens. Kariya Park is named in honour of Mississauga’s twin city Kariya in Japan.
Depending on what day the fairy maiden Konohana-sakuya-hime visits our area to breathe life into the Sakura trees, the bloom usually begins somewhere near the end of April, and lasts into mid-May. Several blossom-watch websites provide updates predicting the timing of the bloom. Why not make it an annual tradition to enjoy the blossoms and afterward, with so many great Japanese restaurants in Brampton and Mississauga, some delicious sushi. After all, in the spirit of Hanami custom, life is beautiful, but temporary.