It’s already April. Although the expectation of spring should be a bit warmer, it’s time to go out and see some cherry blossoms. There are not a lot of cherry blossoming trees in the Regent’s Park, but they’re beautiful enough to be one of the best places in London to see the flowers. While I was visiting last Wednesday, and there was very few people stopped by and had a look of those pretty flowers in compare to my experience in Japan.
Although I’m not a big fan of flowers as well as pink colour, I have visited Japan for seeing the cherry blossoms several times. The Japanese word “Hanami” is a description means “go seeing beautiful flowers (especially cherry blossom)”. As Japan’s national flower, Sakura (cherry blossoms) it is considered “the soul of Japan” (Hoffman, 2012) and has inspired a lot of poets, painters, and musicians. The trees are planted everywhere across Japan, and in February every year, it starts to blossom in the Southern and then spreads to the whole country. Following the Sakura forecast, families, colleagues and friends will gather and sit under the trees, eating food, drinking beer and chatting when the annual celebration comes, or we can say, the festival of cherry blossoms. In some popular sites, you can see people sleep on the picnic mat for hours because they have to be there from early morning to secure the best spot. It sounds really crazy but it is difficult to refuse the beautiful scene and the joy of this big social party.
However, the cherry blossom is not only a beautiful scene but also an opportunity for businesses. The annual festival is a war for high streets: there are different types of Sakura flavour sweets and beverage everywhere. Restaurants provide seasonal menus, and the special lunch box (bento) is sold for people to eat while seeing flowers. Also, the sales of beer would reach a peak because of the big festival. Starbucks has offered the Cherry Blossom Frappuccino® in spring season since 2010, but the limited edition of Sakura mugs and tumblers are more popular. Yes, apart from the food industry, there would be loads of limited edition products appear in the market such as cosmetics, stationery, home ware, and even rolls of toilet paper. Are they really tasty or useful? I am not sure about the answer, though, the atmosphere makes those products seems quite tempting.
The food and products do make a great contribution to Japan’s economy every year, but it seems like the tourism boosts the economy more. The statics given from the Japan Government shows that the number of people visiting Japan for the cherry blossom has been annually increased and it is almost three times more than in 2006. These increase help the airlines, hotels, and the local transports to make a huge profit. Most of the visitors are from the near countries in Asia like Taiwan, China and Korea. According to Yahoo News Japan, the spending of Chinese visitors has grown to around $1,666 per person in February.
This successful business pattern has inspired other countries and they started to follow the fever. There are Sakura events and festivals appear in Korea as well as in Taiwan recent years. It is hard to say whether it is good or bad to see the similar ones, but I think the difference is those events outside of Japan lack the original spirit. Maybe it is a reason why the plane tickets to Japan are always sold-out during this period.
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2. Hoffman, M. (2012). Sakura: Soul of Japan | The Japan Times. [online] The Japan Times. Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2012/03/25/general/sakura-soul-of-japan/#.Vw7N6JMrKMR [Accessed 14 Apr. 2016].
3. Itoh, M. (2012). Cherry blossom captures the flavor of spring | The Japan Times. [online] The Japan Times. Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2012/03/23/food/cherry-blossom-captures-the-flavor-of-spring/#.Vw7NOZMrKMR [Accessed 14 Apr. 2016].
4. Nikkei.com. (2016). . [online] Available at: http://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXZZO76056900T20C14A8000096/ [Accessed 14 Apr. 2016].