In Japan, cherry blossoms or sakura symbolize clouds due to their nature of blooming en mass, besides being an enduring metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life, as the blooms tend to last for a very short period of 7-10 days. Every year the Japanese Meteorological Agency and the public track the sakura zensen (cherry blossom front) as it moves northward up the archipelago with the approach of warmer weather via nightly forecasts following the weather segment of news programs. The blossoming begins in Okinawa in January and typically reaches Kyoto and Tokyo at the end of March or the beginning of April. It proceeds into areas at the higher altitudes and northward, arriving in Hokkaidō a few weeks later. Japanese pay close attention to these forecasts and turn out in large numbers at parks, shrines, and temples with family and friends to hold flower-viewing parties. Hanami festivals celebrate the beauty of the cherry blossom and for many are a chance to relax and enjoy the beautiful view. My family and I were very fortunate to have seen the beauty of the Sakura blooms in Tokyo in early April 2014.
Sakura blooms in Kitanomaru Park, Tokyo.