Sunday, April 1, 2018

A Fond Farewell From MIE

--Susan, every other Sunday

 It's my sad duty, and honor, to write the very last post here at Murder is Everywhere.

We've had a good run, and appreciate everyone who's read and commented on this wonderful blog for so many years - but, like everything else in the world, all good things must come to . . .


(My apologies to my blog brothers and sisters, with whom I did not share this joke in advance - but at the risk of their wrath, it had to be done. It was that or an Easter-based April Fool that would have gotten me in much hotter water with an even bigger brother . . .)

This is NOT the last post (though it might be mine, if the joke went over badly enough!) - but it is a farewell of sorts . . . to the sakura (cherry blossom) season in Japan, which began about two weeks ago, and has just about ended for another year.

They bloom and die so quickly. Just like us. (Photo credit: Xyrenth)

In light of which, I thought I'd blog about a traditional Japanese custom: hanami, or "flower viewing,"   the practice of enjoying the fleeting beauty of flowers.

The Tokyo Skytree rises above the blossoms (Credit: Xyrenth)

A note: the photos in this post are not mine. They were taken last week by a friend of my son's who goes by the online handle Xyrenth and gave me permission to use them. 

Although hanami is possible with any flowers, the term is most commonly used for the viewing parties that take place at cherry blossom season, to appreciate the brief period when sakura are at their peak.

Sakura in Tokyo (Credit: Xyrenth)

Cherry blossoms last only a couple of days, and fall from the tree at the height of their lovely blooms.

Blossoms in the hand -worth two on the tree? (Credit: Xyrenth)

People flock to parks, rivers, and other places to see the blossoms. Often, they take picnics and set out their blankets under the blooming trees. Sometimes, people take musical instruments and games as well as food, and make a day of it - as my son and his friends did last week.

Hanami parties at a Tokyo park. (credit: Xyrenth)

Japan's cuisine is highly seasonal, and sakura is a common flavoring element in spring desserts. Big producers like Haagen Dazs get in on the action:

Sakura mochi flavor - cherry blossom mochi (pounded rice cake) over vanilla ice cream. (credit: Xyrenth)

As do local and specialty confectioners:

Another sakura mochi ... without ice cream. (credit: Xyrenth)

In fact, there's a Japanese proverb: hana yori dango (花より団子) which translates "dango (a type of pounded mochi dumpling) rather than flowers" which suggests people now prefer the tasty seasonal treats to the flowers. However, I think the two are inseparable - without the flowers, there would be no reason for either the parties or the treats!

Sakura blossoms against the sky. (credit: Xyrenth)

The custom of hanami, and flower viewing parties, dates to the 8th century, when members of the Japanese court and the noble classes often composed poems inspired by and dedicated to lovely blossoms - except that the blossoms appreciated during those earliest hanami parties were ume (plum), not cherry.

During the century that followed, however, sakura replaced ume as the blossoms of choice for hanami, to the point that the term is now almost exclusively used for sakura viewing.

Parks filled with blossoming cherry trees. (credit: Xyrenth)

It took several centuries for the custom to spread to the common classes, but by the end of the Edo period (1603-1868), if not before, the springtime custom of hanami parties - complete with music, food, and plenty of beautiful, blossoming trees - had become firmly a part of Japanese culture.

Hanami can continue into the night - in many parks the trees are illuminated to better show the blooms. (credit: Xyrenth)

The tradition shows no signs of fading. If anything, the parties have become larger, with foreign tourists and Japanese people of every age flooding into the parks and along the riverbanks during the brief sakura season, to enjoy the food and festival atmosphere that surrounds the lovely blooms.

And now you know a little more about hanami.

Have any interest in hanging out under the cherry trees next spring? I know I do!


  1. I've enjoyed the part along the Meguro River for most of a month! Next year? You bet!

  2. Well, Susan, you had me there for a moment! I thought you were writing YOUR last post on MIE. Whew. No way you are out of here until AT LEAST you've done 100 posts - one on each of those mountains you'll be climbing! (That's another four years' of posts by my reckoning!)

  3. When I lived in Crown Heights going to the Brooklyn Botanic garden to see the cherry trees in bloom was a must not miss. I didn’t know it had a name! Stil a few weeks here until my weeping cherry (we call her Ophelia) is in bloombb

  4. My first reaction: She can't mean this. And you didn't ! WHEW!!!

  5. Cherry blossoms in pastry or cake. Wonderful idea!

  6. I was suckered as well!!! Pictures are gorgeous. Thank you for sharing

  7. Laura Inghram move over. MIE now has it’s very own “FAKE NEWS, FAKE NEWS” star. And yes, Susan, I’m all up for next Spring under the cherry trees with sakura, Sapphoro and you!

  8. What a relief as I just shared MIE with a friend who was off to Japan for the first time.

  9. I'm glad my April Fool went over well! (I don't like mean ones, but this seemed safe enough.)

    My computer isn't letting me reply to individual comments for some reason, but I'll try to as soon as I can figure out what's going on. Meanwhile - no worries! I'm at MIE for the duration. I love blogging here! (And no worries, Michael, I've got lots of plans for the mountains to come.)

  10. And here I was concerned about how the sea horses and their friends are doing in the aquarium, worried that I'd never read about them again.

    How are they, the abalone, the little crabs and the coral doing?

    Have a great spring in Japan.