Japan is known for it’s cherry blossoms, and representations of the light pink flowers can be found on kimonos, wall scrolls and brochures that advertise the island nation. Cherry blossoms, which represent femininity and rebirth, bloom in abundance in late March every year. Only it wasn’t always that way. About 50-60 years ago the cherry blossoms bloomed in mid to early April. The trend to bloom earlier has some Japanese concerned, both for their environment and their culture. While there are some cherry trees that bloom in the fall, the most popular variety in Japan blossoms in the springtime during the spring festival season. Drawing tourists from around the world, this festival is known for Geisha, art and warm spring days. It is one of the best times to visit the island nation, with near perfect weather and wonderful examples of Japanese traditions to be found at the many local festivals. But the blossoming of these trees may be endangered by Global warming.
Every year the blossoming is getting earlier and earlier. Originally an April event, the Cherry Blossom Festival has been moved up to March to match the trees’ cycles. Cherry blossom trees actually bud in the summertime, but an enzyme in the buds prevents them from opening until the following spring. There are some types of cherry trees that bloom at other times of the year, but the most famous trees – one of which is planted in Washington, DC and was a gift of friendship from the nation – bloom in the spring. When the weather warms, they bloom in abundance and briefly, for about one to three weeks, creating the pink streets and backgrounds famous to Japanese paintings. If something triggers the enzyme early, the trees will bloom and subsequently shed their blossoms early- not to bloom again that year. For the Japanese, the year revolves around the blooming of the cherry blossoms. The blooming is a symbol for the Japanese of rebirth and renewal, signaling the beginning of the work and school year. The threat of changes from global warming is therefore to both the trees and the tightly associated society.
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