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Monday, March 25, 2013

Yozakura - the Night Blossom Tradition

夜桜 Night blossom

Yozakura means "night blossom" in Japanese, and is one aspect of Japan's ancient cherry blossom tradition.

Yozakura in Yoyogi Park in Tokyo.
Yozakura in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo.

The Japanese cherry tree, Prunus serrulata, is an ornamental tree that, due to its artificial breeding over the centuries, does not produce fruit. It blossoms in early spring, which is the occasion for the centuries-old tradition of hanami (literally, "flower viewing") in Japan.

Love under the yozakura, with the Tokyo SkyTree, Taito ward, Tokyo.
Lovers enjoying sakura at dusk,
with Tokyo Skytree in the background. Taito ward, Tokyo.
The sakura (cherry blossom) season is now at its peak in Tokyo, somewhat earlier than is typical. A stroll through any part of the capital city will show beautiful scenes of the shimmering off-white-with-a-touch-of-pink petals of the tiny flowers that cover the gnarled, black trunk and branches of Japanese cherry trees.

Dusk blossom yozakura in Kuramae, Taito ward, Tokyo.
Yozakura, Kuramae, Taito ward, Tokyo.

At nighttime, cherry trees continue to charm, either in moonlight or under lamplight, as the petals subtly reflect the gentle light. Picnicking under cherry trees at night is a tradition in Japan, and adds a sense of mystique and fun to the floral charm.

Partying under the yozakura, Yoyogi Park, Tokyo.
Drinking under the yozakura, a night party in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo.
Japan has three traditionally famous spots for yozakura: Hirosaki Park in the town of Hirosaki in Aomori prefecture, Takada Park in the town of Takada in Niigata prefecture, and Ueno Onshi Park in Tokyo (among other Tokyo hanami spots).

A small night blossom scene in Yanagibashi, Taito ward, Tokyo.
Yozakura by lamplight, Yanagibashi, Taito ward, Tokyo.

Yozakura works its magic on the streets of any city, turning even backstreets like the one shown above in Tokyo's Taito ward into picturesque scenes with every bit as much charm of their own as the splendor of better known quarters, like the British Embassy in Japan in Chiyoda ward, pictured below.

Yozakura in front of the British Embassy, Tokyo, Japan.
Night sakura in front of the British Embassy, Tokyo.

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