Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cherry Blossom: Festivals and Metaphors

Maybe it's because I'm new to SF, but the cherry blossom has captured my attention this spring. Why not, it is a stunning blossom and it is here for a flash. 

Blossom Porn- I'll be it's gone today!
To further pique my interest 45th Annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival is taking place in my neighborhood. This is really a cultural festival for the Japanese-American community in Japantown (Nihonmachi). This community has been flourishing since the immediate aftermath of the 1906 earthquake. It has quickly become one of my favorite spots here.

The cherry blossom is revered in Japanese culture. To paraphrase, the beauty of the cherry blossom (sakura) is the floral embodiment of the Buddhist notion of the stunning but transient nature of physical life. In contemporary Japan, the blossom is much celebrated, complete with hanami, or viewing excursions. People go on organized excursions to castles, temples, shrines to admire the fleeting beauty of flowers and then they have a little picnic. So it follows that the blossom is rooted in the culture from the beginning of recorded time to present day ad copy.

Hence the festival in San Francisco. But it gets better, as this festival blossoms over two weekends. And this coming weekend, April 21st to 22nd, culminating with a two hour parade on Sunday. A two hour, Japanese style parade. This means the featured 2012 Cherry Blossom Festival Queen, accompanied by musicians, artists and shrine wielding damsels.

Other items not to be missed are the tea ceremonies and Ikebana exhibits. Relating to the later, I didn't realize there were so many philsophies/schools dedicated to the contemplative art. My mind may well do better with thoughtful sessions of Ikebana as opposed to blogging.