SAKURA in Hokuto
While Snow Still Covers High Mountain Peaks,
Within Hokuto’s city limits, numerous mountain ranges and peaks rise above 2,000 meters altitude. Even the elevation difference between lower- and higher-altitude residential areas can be as much as 1,000 meters. Such variation in elevation means that cherry blossoms can be seen in full bloom in the city throughout April, despite the typical full-bloom period of only about a week or so. There are two particularly famous giant sakura (cherry blossom) trees in Hokuto. One is the Yamataka no Jindai Sakura (Jindai Cherry Blossom at Jissoji Temple), which, according to legend, was planted by Prince Yamato Takeru, and is said to be some 2,000 years old. The other is Shinden no Oito Zakura (Large Cherry Blossom Tree of Shinden), which was planted on the edge of rice paddies around 400 years ago as a focal point for farmers’ prayers for abundant harvests. Each is a large tree of more than 10 meters height. Strong winds, exhaust fumes and age have taken their toll on the trees, but despite temporary loss of vigor in the past, they still provide a fantastic sight during the blossom season thanks to the efforts of local people to take care of these sakura treasures.
Including these two renowned sakura-viewing spots, Hokuto boasts many locations in which people may enjoy the delightful contrast between white snow-covered mountain peaks, vivid blue sky and pale-pink cherry blossom petals.
The Symbolism of Cherry Blossoms in Japan
Cherry blossoms have had a strong connection to people’s lives in Japan since ancient times. The appearance of sakura buds signals the arrival of spring, and in modern society the cherry blossom season coincides with the school graduation season and the intake of new recruits at companies. Hence, sakura are associated with many key life events and memories. Cherry blossoms captivate people’s hearts with the delicateness of their small, pale petals as well as the grandeur of a display of so many flowers at once for such a fleeting period—only a week each year.
One of the dominant themes permeating classical Japanese literature is a strong aesthetic sense and an appreciation of the “pathos of things” (mono no aware, in Japanese). Sakura blossoms have been used in countless works of art and literature as a motif of the ephemeral nature of beauty—expressing affection for the brief but intense burst of color. Starting as small buds that slowly swell and bloom, entire trees then become ablaze with blossoms. Finally the delicate petals fall and flutter like snowflakes in the spring breeze, sometimes turning entire rivers pink. The myriad incarnations of sakura become an eloquent metaphor for the attractions of Japanese culture.
The Beauty of Japan during the Cherry Blossom Season
Whatever description one chooses, to truly appreciate the beauty Japan during the sakura season one must see it firsthand. While all four seasons have their own unique appeal, the peak of the cherry blossom season has a special place in our hearts. We hope many overseas visitors too will enjoy this special display of nature.