Japan is full of katakana English that has no real meaning in English. Like “service,” which refers to a small business giving the customer a freebie, often spontaneously as a reward for being a loyal customer. Sitting in Shinjuku Gyoen, enjoying hanami with several friends, I learned a new slang, “skinship.” That refers to building friendship through touching. Since touching is somewhat rare in public, borrowing from English is considered somehow appropriate. I explained to my friend the difference between “touching” and “groping.”

Sakura already falling

Sakura in full bloom, Zenpujiki River

Wednesday I was biking to my gym yoga class and admiring the sakura in full bloom along the Kanda River between Nakano Sakaue and Higashi Nakano. After class, I noticed that the warm weather and wind was starting a “snowfall” of petals along the path and in the river. How quickly sakura ends.

The photo above is from Zenpujiki River, near the in-laws’ ceramic studio. Rivers are perfect settings for sakura. Hanami at the narrow park along this river in Suginami is more neighborly and less crazed than more celebrated parks. Below is a night image from central Nakano, where many old cherry trees line Nakano Dori. The lighting is supplied by local institution, Don Ki (the nickname for low-priced emporium Don Quijote). And you can see the moon in the upper right corner.

Sakura at night in front of Don Ki, Nakano

After a few more days, cherry blossom season will be over.

Cherry blossoms peaking

Hanami Inokashira Koen

This weekend is officially peak hanami, or cherry blossom viewing. The husband and I visited famous Inokashira Koen in Kichijoji on Friday afternoon. The trees were beautiful, particularly how the old branches extend over the pond.

Hanami Inokashira Koen

Since it was still a weekday, the park was full but not as crazy as it will be over the weekend. There were many blue sheets laid out for picnic-drinking parties, with just a few early birds saving spots for their friends. We saw many over-the-top outfits on people of all ages. And a remarkably genki-looking man told us about his 6 years war experience in Myanmar and his love for bananas and pineapples; turns out he’s 91.

Hanami Inokashira Koen Blue Sheets

Two views of cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms (さくら)are reaching peak season in Tokyo, and Japanese are crazy about viewing them (はなみ). I love how the seasonal spirit ranges from gorgeous, well-pruned specimens to cheap, plastic decorations in some of the less sightly parts of Nakano.

In front of the Imperial Palace (こうきょ):

Sakura in front of National Theater, and across from Imperial Palace

Besides the power lines near Nakano Broadway:

Nakano sakura