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April 8, 2015

Blooming into Now: Hanami in the Japanese Gardens of Kyoto

The Japanese celebration of the cherry blossom’s ephemeral nature is called HanamiHanami is more than merely a celebration of falling blossoms. It is a sometimes drunken celebration of individual humanity, the coming into being of each of us, and our inevitable washing away into the unknown. Tibetan Buddhist monks celebrate the wheel of life and death more abstractly by building complex, artistic, and intricate mandala-designs from sand. The Monks create a vast arrangement of colored grains that are chosen and destined to be scattered into formlessness as the Monks ceremonially scoop the sand into jars and release it into the river. The Monks once time-consuming labor of constructing complicated patterns of deities and symbolic worlds disintegrates into a nameless flow.

Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Heian Shrine

While Hanami shares the same underlying principle as Tibetan sand mandala ceremonies—the gradual arising of nature into formlessness—Japanese Hanami is far less abstract or symbolic. Hanami is simply the experience of natural beauty in the form of bloom and raining petals. The cherry blossoms are beautiful, but even more beautiful, or perhaps what makes them truly beautiful, is their short time here on earth, their simple expression, their inability to cling to the tree, and their willing surrender to time.

Hanami in the Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Heian Shrine 2

The true celebration of life, and in fact beautiful living itself, comes from letting go of the branch, embracing a world where there is neither being nor death; where there is only the flow of moments, floating petals on the wind, sunlight and shadows flickering beneath the tree, our own blooming into the eternal moments of now.

The Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Heian Shrine 3

The Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Heian Shrine 4

The Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Heian Shrine 5

The Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Heian Shrine 6

Hanami in the Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Heian Shrine 7

Hanami in the Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Ryōan-ji Temple

Hanami in the Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Kinkaku-ji Temple

Hanami in the Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Katsura Imperial Villa 1

Hanami in the Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Katsura Imperial Villa 2

Hanami in the Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Katsura Imperial Villa 3

Hanami in the Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Kyoto imperial Palace 1Hanami in the Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Katsura Imperial Villa

Hanami in the Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Kyoto imperial Palace 2

Hanami in the Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Sentō Imperial Palace 1

Hanami in the Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Cemetery near Kiyomizu-dera

Hanami in the Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Sentō Imperial Palace

Hanami in the Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Tenryu-ji Temple 1

Hanami in the Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Tenryu-ji Temple 2

The Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Tenryu-ji Temple 3

The Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Tenryu-ji Temple 6

Hanami in the Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Arashiyama Bamboo Grove 1

Hanami in the Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Arashiyama Bamboo Grove 2The Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Ryōan-ji Temple 2

The Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Ninna-ji Temple

Hanami in the Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Hozu River, Arashiyama

The Japanese Gardens of Kyoto Across from Kyoto Imperial Palace Park

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