My one day hanami holiday

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Flag of Japan  ,
Friday, May 12, 2006

Hanami (literally "flower viewing") is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers, which almost always means cherry (sakura) or plum (ume) blossoms. From late March to early April, sakura go into full bloom all over Japan as Mother Nature dresses up her cherry blossom trees like beautiful geisha girls. Because of the short duration that you can enjoy this breathtaking visual display, these 2 weeks or so coincide with a mad rush for the best prime blossom viewing picnic space in the parks around Japan. Miss it and you have to wait 52 weeks to see it again. Miss it again and you might end up in a mental institution for SDS, Sakura deprivation syndrome.

For large groups planning to enjoy the hanami, plenty of sake and a karaoke machine are a must, even if deafness and waking up the morning after in your boss' bed is a consequence; and if you are one of those greenhorn employees who still hasn't received a job description and is best known for your photocopying skills don't be surprised if the boss sends you on a mission to reserve the best site for an after work party.

To enjoy my hanami, I staked out the Osaka Castle Park, getting there around 10.30am in the morning just to make sure that I would be able to find a nice place under a tree to relax. Unfortunately I was so caught up with taking picture after picture that by the time I was done, all the best spots had blue canvas sheets and strings tied around trees, lampposts, railings etc to demarcate their territories, like electric fences in case any ignoramus singaporus would conquer their space. In any case, I bought a sushi box, found myself a seat and enjoyed my own hanami experience. The weather was glorious, there were pretty ladies that caught my eye, and thank god the karaoke machines were not switched on yet. All in all a perfect hanami!

My next stop was across the city to the Kayukan Aquarium. Definitely a must see on any itinerary to Osaka. Its not the largest aquarium in the world by any means but the highlight of this aquarium is a huge deep seawater tank that is about five stories high. This is the current home of an amazing whale shark, a truly beautiful and gentle sea creature. It is also home to about five manta rays, and possibly a thousand other smaller fish. I spent almost half an hour just captivated by the whale shark, and once I was done, was reminded that it was almost dinner time when I reached the final exhibit, which consisted of a medium size tank with the largest Alaskan King Crabs I had seen. The tank had blue mood lighting but all I could think about from that moment on was red juicy crab legs with lemon butter. Ah...bless the sea and all its abundance!

The night before I had spent some time at Shinsaibashi Street. It was one of the main shopping thoroughfares and a great place to people watch. What possesses a person of apparently high IQ to dye their hair in ten different colours and wear blue lipstick eludes me, but then again if we were all born the same then life would be one big bore wouldn't it? But if you do strike it rich in the next bingo raffle, try stepping in to one of the major Japanese department stores. Head straight to the food section and be bowled over by the variety and the freshness of the produce there. And remember, leave your diet behind!
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