O Hanami – Flower Watching.

May 11, 2019

It’s been rather wet and chilly, in my corner of France, near Paris, these last two weeks.

While the vegetation and crops are soaking up the badly needed rain, it has also meant that the beautiful Spring blossom has disappeared. It has been battered to the ground by the rain, like wedding confetti the day after and distributed all over the house by our pets paws.

The blooming of Spring blossom fills me with joy, just as its sudden passing, sometimes only a few days later, makes me a little sad. Blossom is on the one hand so very prosaic and common place, but on the other so wondrous after the dark silhouettes of bare trees in winter.

Hanami or Flower watching, is the Japanese custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers. I do a lot of this on my daily walks with my dog Tess. I am endlessly fascinated by flowers, their colours, their intricate design, their variety, all for the sake of procreation. All that delicate or blousy beauty to entice a bee, or other insect, inside, to pollenate and produce the next generation of plants.

Emily Dickinson (1830–1886), celebrated Spring in a letter to her brother Austin, written when she was just twenty three and falling in love with the love of her life, a young woman whom Austin would soon marry.

« Today is very beautiful — just as bright, just as blue, just as green and as white, and as crimson, as the cherry trees full in bloom, and the half opening peach blossoms, and the grass just waving, and sky and hill and cloud, can make it, if they try…You thought last Saturday beautiful – yet to this golden day, ‘twas but one single gem, to whole handfuls of jewels. »

I didn’t realize that viewing cherry blossom was a thing, until we lived for two years in Washington D.C. There are several thousand cherry trees planted along the Tidal Basin in the capital city and the original trees were donated by the city of Tokyo in the early 1900s.

The Cherry Blossom Festival, in Washington D.C., runs every year from March to April and attracts hundreds of thousands of people to the city. Peak bloom occurs when 70% of the Yoshino Cherry trees are open.

The Japanese word Hanami, flowers (“hana”), almost always refers to those of the cherry, sakura, or less frequently, plum trees.

In Japan, the blossom forecast is announced each year by the weather bureau, and is watched carefully by those planning hanami as the blossoms only last a week or two. In modern-day Japan, hanami mostly consists of having an outdoor picnic beneath the sakura, cherry trees.

The practice of hanami is many centuries old.

The custom is said to have started as early as the Nara period (710–794). Emperor Saga of the Heian period (794 – 1185) held flower-viewing parties with saké and feasts underneath the blossoming boughs of sakura trees in the Imperial Court in Kyoto.

Many poems have been written praising the delicate flowers, which are seen by the Japanese as a metaphor for life itself, luminous and beautiful, yet fleeting and ephemeral.

I’m no poet, but here’s a list of things that I think of when I see cherry blossom:

Frilly fifties petticoats,

The pantaloons of Victorian girls,

Confetti scattered by a church door,

Falling snow and strawberries and cream.


What does Spring blossom mean to you?

Two articles with stunning blossom photography:

Sakura Cherry Blossom Drone Photos.

Spring In Japan.


I’m delighted to have been interviewed by Judy MacMahon for the My French Life website. If you’re curious to know more about how I came to live in France and about my creative path follow this link …. Henrie Richer Fine Art Photographer and Artist.

Thank you for visiting,

Henrie XO.




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