February through April is plum and cherry blossom season in Japan, depending on where you’re located. Mid-Summer and Winter can be fairly intense but Japan is “blessed” with four distinct seasons and everyone looks forward to the blossoms as a sign Spring has finally arrived – along with beer-fueled hanami (flower viewing) drinking parties under the trees. The old Japanese calendar was actually broken down into a large number of subdivisions that closely tracked these seasonal transitions, but it’s less accurate these days, with Spring seeming to arrive later and wetter each year.
Overall, the flowering season is relatively long as different types of trees bloom but the peak is fleeting and it is only a week or so before the petals gradually fade and float to earth in swirling pink and white clouds. If you’re in Kyoto during this period, the Imperial Park has a large cherry, plum and peach orchard on the west side, with some huge old cherry trees that still manage to produce an amazing density of blossoms. The main palace is also open to the public during the first week of April, providing a rare chance to see the interior without a private booking.
This is one of my favorite times of year and I usually try to get in a few hanami sessions while the blossoms last – including an annual trek over to the Imperial Park. Virtually the whole route is lined with impressive cherry trees and it also provides a chance to get in a little barefoot time on the grass in the park. There is some science behind this, but it appears that touching the ground in this way earths and electrically discharges the body, creating a feeling of well-being. (Tree hugging may also help. ;-))
It gets pretty cold during the Winter so I usually haven’t done this for months but after 15 minutes, I definitely feel more relaxed and focused. I actually just walk around for 10, 15 minutes – amazing little foot massage pressing against the moss and pine needles – and then sit and read in the Sun for a while longer, soaking up a bit of vitamin D. Try it and see what you think.