Shirakawa means “white river", and this small stream in Kyoto got its name because of the white sand on the bottom. However, its name becomes even more fitting during spring, because of the spectacular cherry trees flanking its banks.
Their delicate white-pink sakura blossoms are creating a wonderful and romantic atmosphere… The street is one of the most popular cherry blossoms venues and it is by far my favorite Hanami place.
Most Shinto shrines have one or several sacred trees, (shinboku in Japanese 神木), considered to be the place where the kami spirits dwell. These sacred trees are usually long-life species such as pines, oaks or sakura cherry trees. It is strictly forbidden to cut or pollute these trees, so in some cases, sacred sakura managed to reach an amazing life span of several hundred years. And even if they’re not very large, in the spring, when in full bloom, they are absolutely spectacular…
At the beginning of the Edo period, Japan regained peace after a century and a half of conflicts. The interest of the local lords turned from raising fortifications to building palaces designed to offer luxury and comfort. Therefore, sophisticated mansions and halls were built inside the walls of the old military castles.
Photographed here is a hall inside the Kumamoto Castle Honmaru Goten palace. Recently reconstructed by using original materials and technologies, it offers an accurate glimpse of the sumptuous lifestyle of the Edo period lords.
The life of the cherry blossom is short, but each life stage has its own charm and the Japanese tradition celebrates them all… After the full bloom magnificence, the withering period is called sakura fubuki, “cherry blossoms snowfall".
And a famous haiku by Issa says:
sasuga hana chiru ni miren wa nakari keri
When cherry blossoms
The Japanese gardens are designed so that they will look great during any season. However, during spring time, when the cherry trees are in full bloom, they are more beautiful than ever.
And since the cherry trees are often planted around ponds, on a windless day, when the sakura blossoms are reflecting on a perfectly calm water surface, the landscape becomes breathtaking…
Since the sakura cherry blossoms are among the most powerful Japanese symbols, there’s no wonder that they are being used in all forms of art. And given Japan’s unique artistic manhole covers, the cherry blossoms cannot be missing either… Especially in prefectures having sakura as a symbol, such as Nara. Here is one of these beautiful manhole covers, featuring cherry blossoms and another local symbol, the delicate Nara deer.
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