Thursday, June 02, 2011

Sakura, Sprinkles, and Sake

Cherry blossom season has always been one of my favorite times in Japan. Two weeks of sunny skies, warming weather and cherry trees covered in delicate flowers are enough to banish winter from any heart. This was my fourth chance to enjoy hanami (花見), the flower viewing festivals that sweep every city in Japan.

This year I joined a huge ALT party in the nearby city of Takasaki. Takasaki is actually the largest city in Gunma, and has a much more vibrant city center than Maebashi, even though the latter is the prefectural capital. (Years ago, Takasaki got the shinkansen stop and Maebashi didn't, and that quick link to Tokyo has made its effects known economically.)

Despite a rather dismal weather forecast and lingering doubts about how much we should celebrate in the face of the recent earthquake, our group gathered near the site of old Takasaki castle and settled down to the serious business of enjoying the flowers, and our snack and alcohol selections.

We did have some light rain, but nothing to damp the festivities too much. There had been some discussion of Karaoke, but in the end most people departed after dinner at the local Garlic Restaurant. When you start drinking at 1 PM, its hard to stay out much past 6 or 7!

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