The Sakura blossom is the national flower of Japan. It symbolizes the delicate and short existence of our life on earth and reminds us to stop and take time to appreciate friends and family. The tradition of celebrating Hamami, the custom of watching Sakura blooms, goes back thousands of years. In Japan, it’s customary for people to gather under the blossoms and share family picnics.
Japan’s tradition of gifting Sakura trees to the citizens of Toronto began on April 1, 1959, as a show of gratitude for supporting Japanese-Canadian refugees after the 2nd World War. The 2000 trees were planted in many parks throughout the city . Since those first Sakura trees were donated, many more have been graciously received. On June 1st, 2005, three trees were generously donated to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario by the Sakura Project. The aim of the Sakura Project is to promote friendship and goodwill between Japan and Ontario.
My timing to see Sakura tree blossoms was purely coincidental because I had taken a family member to hospital for an annual test. In past years, I had seen celebrations of the Sakura Trees on television and told myself, “Next year I’ll make it a point to see the spring blossoms.” This year was no different than any other; I had not planned to see a single tree.
Wandering along streets next to the hospital, it was only by chance I found myself in a small garden of Sakura trees at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Three Sakura trees to be exact, so yes, definitely a small garden. There were more people than trees. The manner in which people were oohing and aweing was like the dawn of a new day when the sun begins to rise above the horizon. People held their cameras at arm’s length, posing for memorable selfies. The small number of Sakura admirers made for a tranquil and pleasant first time experience. A local television crew was live broadcasting for an appreciative audience.
The soft white petals with only a faint scent show their beauty for a short time. Depending on weather conditions, the flowers may last for up to one and a half weeks. A few days after my visit, I made a return trip for another hospital appointment and returned to see most of the blossoms had fallen to the ground. How symbolic it all felt: renewal, life and death.