At the end of WWII, Japan gifted the United States cherry blossom seedlings as a sign of friendship. In Japanese culture the blossoms are an enduring metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life. Hanami or flower viewing is a centuries old tradition in Japan. The practice was first associated with plum blossoms before becoming almost exclusively linked with cherry blossoms in the Hein Period.
Keeping with this ancient tradition, the Husband and I decided to do some viewing ourselves. The seedlings gifted by the Japanese people, were planted along the tidal basin in D.C. A fortnight long Cherry Blossom festival culminating in a parade is held every year round peak bloom time. After days of constant follow up with various websites on the peak bloom dates, and juggling of schedules, we decided to avoid the weekend crowd and parade madness, and go on Friday. Friday, however had forecasts of rain. Left with no option, we re-worked our schedules to go on Sunday.That it did not rain on Friday is a different story altogether.
Sunday was crazier than we expected. We circled around the city of almost an hour before we found parking around 2 miles from the tidal basin. Given that it’s Spring time, the weather was fine and walking was not a problem. Although NYC still has a few good knee-high boot days left, they are definitely over in D.C. Shorts and open footwear seemed to be the sensible favourites. I was quite stunned by the number of visitors who had come to see the blooms. Beautiful as it was, I doubt a lot of people would drive down to d.c to see it a second time, so most would have to be first time visitors. Imagine so many first time visitors each year – it’s almost as though everyone who lands in the US that year, turns up here. Yeah, I’m exaggerating, but there were a lot of people there that day.
D.C has several varieties of cherry blossom trees. A list of locations is available here. The ones around the tidal basin have pale pink flowers. I believe these are the Akebono variety. Deeper pink flowers can be seen along the East Potomac Park. The East Potomac park also has the Weeping Cherry Trees. We also saw a lot of what we think were Yoshino Cherry Trees close to where we parked the car. The best way to enjoy the flowers is to walk along the Tidal Basin and cut across the East Potomac Park. When the wind blows, the petals swirl around you like little snowflakes. Carry some water and a picnic lunch, and have a great day!
Pleasurable as the flower viewing was, I couldn’t help but feel it wasn’t worth a four-five hour each way drive. We didn’t have the time to even consider checking out the festival offerings. I am sure I’ve seen a couple of cherry blossom trees in downtown Stamford, if not the Brooklyn Botanical Garden has a few of them. Next year, I would rather go picnic under local cherry trees.