As we have fall leaf-peeping season in parts of the U.S., including Western North Carolina, Japan has cherry-blossom season, with its own meteorological forecasts. The cultural importance of Sakura in its native country cannot be overestimated. More than 200 species of the frothy spring blooms flourish there, and their sweep across the archipelago in March and April is closely monitored and anticipated.
A 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Japanese dignitaries to President and First Lady Taft eventually resulted in America’s own beloved National Cherry Tree Festival in Washington, D.C.
The D.C. trees bloomed early this year, with a reported peak the week before Easter. But Hendersonville gets its own Sakura soirée this season when, for the first time, the WNC Japanese Culture Center teams up with neighboring business the Flower Market for a Cherry Blossom Festival on April 2.
Besides the main attraction, Emiko Suzuki and Pam Hedstrom will present a traditional tea, Ikebana flower displays, bonsai examples, origami demonstrations, and a saki tasting (presented by The Poe House) — plus refreshments and door prizes.
While sakura is Japan’s national flower, flowering cherry trees are not typically found in gardens there. According to an article by Brian Funk on the website of Brooklyn Botanic Garden, “conifers, maples, azaleas, and mosses are all much more common in traditional Japanese gardens, which are created to showcase year-round seasonal interest. In Japan, flowering cherries, with their short blooming period, symbolize the ephemeral. They’re more likely to be planted in parks.” While drinking sake under the cherry trees is a common practice during the first spring flowering, “compared with cherry festivals in the U.S., they are rather solemn events where everyone contemplates the impermanence of life.”
Cherry Blossom Festival, 10am-3pm. 625 & 627 Fifth Avenue West. 828-696-4884.