The seasons in Japan are measured out with leaves and blossoms.
First out at this time of year (mid-late February) are plum blossoms and camellia, followed about a month or six weeks later in April by everyone's favorite - cherry blossoms.
Early summer before the rains sees azaleas and wisteria in bloom.
Other flowerings that draw the crowds to temples, shrines and botanic gardens around the country are hydrangeas, lotus and iris in the rainy season (mid June-July).
Late summer and early autumn sees chrysanthemums on show before the maple leaves change color to a brilliant red and bring tourists in droves to the mountains of Kyoto and Arashiyama.
The plum tree was introduced to Japan from China and plum blossom became a recurring image in traditional Japanese art. Plum tea, pickled plumes (umeboshi) and umeshu - a sweet alcoholic drink are the main products from the Japanese plum tree.
Famous places to view plum blossoms include Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto and Yushima Tenjin Shrine in Tokyo.
These images are from Nagoya's Agricultural Center, a 15 minute walk east from Hirabari Subway Station on the Tsurumai Line.
The flowering trees draw substantial crowds at weekends and unfortunately there is a constant line of cars about 1km in length, engines running, throughout the day, waiting to park in the Center's small car park. No-one sees the irony of polluting the atmosphere while admiring nature's bounty on an unseasonally warm afternoon.
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Tuesday, February 27, 2007