Friday, March 27, 2015

Photo Friday #3: Ueno Park hanami! フォト金曜日#3:上野公園花見!

フォト金曜日#3:上野公園花見!Photo Friday #3: Ueno Park hanami! 

As I wrote in Wednesday's Mini Post, the sakura (cherry blossoms) have opened in Tokyo! This week's Photo Friday entry takes a look at what Ueno Park will look like in a few days, when the sakura reach their peak...

Geisha performing amidst Ueno Park's sakura, March 23, 2013
Though Ueno Park opened to the public in 1873, hanami (flower-viewing) is a centuries-old tradition, stretching back to Japan's Nara and Heian periods (794-1185) when the Japanese elite first enjoyed parties under blossoming ume (plum) and sakura trees. Since then, hanami and sakura have become an important part of Japanese history and pop culture, from inclusion in The Tale of Genji to seasonal drinks at Starbucks.

As you can see in the photo above, Ueno Park, Japan's most-visited public city park, is one of the most popular spots in Tokyo for hanami. Every year, millions of people come to Ueno Park and its surrounding areas to see thousands of cherry trees in bloom. Nearby Ueno Station and Keisei Ueno Station become flooded with visitors, slowly walking shoulder-to-shoulder as they make their way to the park.

Once at the park, visitors are treated to traditional dance and music under millions of blooms, with picnickers enjoying delicious bento, sake, and beer on tarps or tatami mats. In the photo above, onlookers enjoy a performance by geisha, a rare treat in modern Japanese society. (Contrary to how Japan is sometimes portrayed, geisha aren't a common sight. During this trip, I briefly saw one on a Kyoto side street, presumably making her way to an appointment.)

I like this photo because it shows that foreign tourists aren't the only people fascinated by geisha; the entertainers are a bit of a dying breed, as fewer girls enter the profession in these modern times. Catching a glimpse of such a quintessentially Japanese sight, framed by sakura, was truly moving--and definitely worth missing our flight back to the U.S.

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