It was the end of an era. Literally. On Tuesday Emperor Akihito abdicated the Chrysanthemum Throne in favor of his son, 59-year old son, Naruhito. The new era, dedicated to peace and harmony, is cause for quite a celebration across Japan and pretty much the entire country is on a 10-day vacation. So getting into the spirit, Kongo joined tens of thousands on Tuesday to view the cherry blossoms at Hirosaki Castle located in the northern part of Honshu Island.
The original castle and grounds date back to the early 1600s. It is one of a dozen remaining castles from the Edo period of Japan when Shoguns ruled the land. There are more than 2,600 cherry trees flowering on the complex. The 56 different varieties of trees ensures that the bloom lasts as long as possible. Three million people are expected to view the trees this week.
Many of the trees are hundreds of years old and the branches need to be propped up to prevent damage.
When the breeze picked up it looked like it was snowing cherry blossom petals and the ground beneath the trees is covered in pink.
There are double layers of moats surrounding the castle and they were filled up with fallen blossoms.
The only thing that could have made this day more perfect was a blue sky. At least it wasn’t raining. Kongo briefly considered photoshopping in a blue sky to rival some of the famous postcards of this beautiful destination. Nah. Kongo would never do a “fake news” blog.
The castle complex has plenty of big stone walls, imposing gates (like the one above), moats, strategically placed barracks for samurai, and of course there are the cherry trees. The beauty of these trees is somehow essential Japan. The ephemeral beauty of the blossoms lasts only a few days and then you must wait another year to see it again. The blooms are a symbol of spring and the promise of renewal, but also a reminder that life is short. The blooms are gone before you know it.
Travel safe. Have fun.