Sakura I: The Wave Before the Wave
Every year from late March to mid-May the famous “Sakura nami” (“Cherry-blossom wave”)* sweeps across Japan from south to north. This wave of pink heralds the beginning of spring and is one of the most celebrated events in the social calendar.
* sakura = “cherry-blossom”
Almost the entire population seems to descend on parks and famous viewing spots where the trees are in greatest abundance. Everyone spreads out sheets and mats under the trees. Families and friends gather there for drinks, companies hold special parties (on bigger sheets and with even more drinks), old and young alike celebrate this truly spectacular time.
More photographs are taken over the few brief days of blossom than at any other time of the year.
However the sakura isn’t the only vividly coloured wave that explodes across Japan. There’s another, it’s also pink, and every year it bursts out on cue a few weeks before the cherry-blossoms arrive.
It’s the phenomenal wave of sakura advertisements…
One usually first notices a few signs, posters and magazines turning pink. But suddenly it’s everywhere. Within a short time TV advertising changes, businesses adopt sakura-flavoured imagery and new seasonal products begin appearing in the shops.
Once arrived, it remains for weeks. Far longer in fact than the cherry blossom itself.
The main focus of advertising is of course travel. Packages are sold year-round, but with spring approaching after a long winter, the promise of a bountiful sakura-suffused pink vista is something irresistible to Japanese. Such images are naturally used to lure people all over the country.
The problem is that with the entire country about to be covered in the pretty cherry blossoms, how does one distinguish one abundant location from another? The solution is to simply show the most mind-bogglingly plenteous views of sakura available, which results in an extraordinary transformation of advertising-rich locations into a pink paradise. Weeks before the cherry blossoms bloom.
This is a good thing.
It’s quite lovely having this pre-spring spring. It raises spirits, generates anticipation, and at the most basic level it’s just very pretty.
On the Trains
The interior of train carriages is a favourite spot for large wide-format images of beautiful locations. Entire carriages may be lined with such imagery.
Special cherry-blossom viewing events are held, with some locations being spotlit at night to spectacular effect.
The images don’t always present an entirely accurate impression of what one will see.
As most people travel by train, stations are the prime location for sakura-themed advertising. Travel companies, hotels and Japan Rail itself offer spring special deals in abundance.
Locations from all over the country are promoted with images of blossoms teeming in copious quantities. Station walls filled with these sakura posters can be quite astounding when seen for the first time.
Free magazines and brochures also urge people to visit pink places all over Japan.
Page upon page of pink. All with their own images, special hotel and food deals, access maps and information, courtesy of JR.
Also often included is useful historical/background information. The page above features descriptions of unique and notable trees in the region.
And there’s more!
Not only does the world turn pink with posters and magazines, but shops and businesses also make the most of this opportunity for a colour change and seasonal theme.
Continued in Part II