It may have been a while coming, but the blue skies and warm, pleasant winds mean that spring has finally arrived. The colder than usual weather in the first half of April meant that hanami (cherry blossom viewing) was a slightly frigid experience, but Yosano looked as resplendent as ever covered by the sprouting pink and white petals. The mania surrounding the sakura (cherry blossom) has become a mainstay of Japanese culture, with food flavours, company logos, and even girls’ names inspired by the annual week-long bloom. Whilst the the sakura craze has deep historical roots, it is a surprising fact that 80% of the cherry blossom trees are in fact the same, artificially produced variety called someiyoshino, created around 150 years ago. The someiyoshino trees were deemed to have the most pleasing bloom, and because they share identical DNA they blossom at the same time, creating the modern simultaneous bloom phenomenon. (Indeed, many of Japan’s other cherry tree varieties were nearly driven extinct, but were saved by conservationists, most famously by the British enthusiast ‘Cherry’ Ingram.) The allure of the sakura lies in its symbolization of transient beauty, fleeting joy, and natural simplicity - sentiments that have come to be considered as aligned with a Japanese sensibility and worldview. However, the sakura also heralds the arrival of fine spring weather, a short break between the bitter winter and sticky summer (exacerbated, perhaps, by the fact that most Japanese homes do not come with adequate insulation or heating). The blossom may now have finished, leaving a carpet of petals on the ground, but the weather is at least warm and pleasant: time to embrace the newly-verdant outdoors.