It might shock a few of you to know that I'm not much of a reader. I've never really been that into books, preferring to lie on my bed as a teenager for hours on end listening to music and just staring at the ceiling.
From what I've heard, books are a great escape and yes I've certainly read a few fabulous books so I know all about the suspenseful build to the climax.
I must say though, that no book so far has even come close to the suspense that is the lead up to sakura season in Japan (tip for young players: 'sakura' is Japanese for cherry blossom).
Having arrived in Japan at the taper of what was described by so many people as a 'moody' winter, I can speak first hand on the suspense before the bloom.
Every person is a punter when it comes to predicting when the pretty blossoms will first show their delicate flowers. Old men inspect the flower buds right up close, examining the size of the bud, its state of 'openness' (or closedness in many cases) before hypothesising on when we might finally experience the glory of sakura across the country.
In making their predictions, punters must account for location including both latitude and longitude (further south and west of the country blooms earlier, with the north blooming much later) as well as considering elevation and local temperatures (while quite a way south, sakura on islands in the inland sea will bloom later due to cool coastal winds).
For all the punting, it really is anyone's guess when the sakura will finally grace is with its presence. Plenty of people plan their holidays to Japan, gambling on when is the perfect time to land in-country for the full bloom. Last year, I was lucky enough to plan it perfectly, landing in Tokyo the day before the flowers came out to play. This time around though, I have a renewed appreciation for the beauty of the sakura, waiting patiently for weeks through the end of winter for the pleasant pretty petals, living through each day as though turning the pages eagerly to reach the climax.
But the suspense certainly pays off as the tree lined streets and random household gardens bloom into gorgeous plumes of pink fairy floss flowers that look so good you could eat them. And when the first blooms appear, the same punters emerge with their cameras in the hope of capturing the ever elusive perfect sakura photo (myself included). The trees, bare for so long, suddenly transform into a soft flutter signalling the start of spring when there's finally hope for some warmer weather and hanami parties under the blossoms complete with beers and bento.
It's a truly beautiful sight and well worth the hype. It's hard to put into words, but take my word for it that hundreds, thousands of cherry blossom trees in a country that has cultivated them for a thousand years in pursuit of perfect beauty is definitely worth experiencing in real life.
And just as quickly as the sakura blooms, it blows away in the wind and spring showers while girls try to catch the falling petals for good luck. The sakura suspense does not equate to the fleeting nature of the bloom, but serves as a reminder to appreciate beauty while it's there, for it can all be taken away in an instant. A reminder of the transient nature of life, how some things are worth waiting for and deserve the requisite attention once they arrive.
Happy hanami everyone.