RIKUZENTAKATA, Japan – Sunday, April 17, 2011, after the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and huge tsunami that stricken into Japan's northeast coast last March 11, victims of Japan's major tragedy since World War II took a break from the clean-up to mark the blossoming of the cherry trees by holding a traditional "hanami" party.
Hanami (literally means "flower viewing") is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers, "flower" in this case almost always meaning cherry blossoms.
Hanami has been a Japanese practice since the 7th century when the upper class took pleasure in looking at beautiful sakura and wrote poems. Sakura is an emblem of Japan, and it's said that there are over four hundred varieties of cherry trees in Japan. The most fashionable breed of sakura which can be observed everywhere is somei-yoshino (Yedoensis). Japanese cherry trees do not yield fruits like other cherry trees.
Hanami and cherry blossom festivals are held all over Japan in spring. In hanami parties, people have fun, drinking, eating, and singing during the day or night. It is like a picnic under sakura trees. Regularly, people bring food, do barbeque, or pay money for food from vendors for hanami parties.
In one of the areas worst hit by the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and huge tsunami that slammed into Japanese cherry trees on March 11, residents cracked open the sake, held barbecues and sang songs to herald the arrival of spring.
This year's festival have been muffled by the tragedy that beat more than a month ago, killing thousands and sparking the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.
In the devastated city of Rikuzentakata, where one of 10 residents is projected to have been killed in the tragedy, around 200 survivors celebrated the short-lived floral display that heralds the start of spring. With the cherry trees just beginning to flourish, people of all ages played traditional drums salvaged from the debris while others grilled fish and sang songs.