Even now when I see sakura, there is an automatic response to sing the opening lines to the song aloud or quietly in my mind when people are around.
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Currently spending time in Victoria, B. The blossoms remind me of hanami , the centuries-old practice in Japan of picnicking under a blooming sakura or ume plum tree. It is one of the things I loved most about being in Japan.
In Japan, the blossoms were spectacular during hanami but what touched me most was the deep appreciation, respect and wonder the Japanese have for the blossoms. While the cherry blossoms in Canada may signify the arrival of spring, in Japan they have deeper meaning. The cherry blossoms come once a year for a short time and for the Japanese, represent life itself.
There is beauty in life, which is fleeting, so we need to appreciate it fully while we have it. The Japanese pay close attention to these forecasts and turn out in large numbers at parks, shrines and temples with family and friends to hold flower-viewing picnics with special food and drink. I wondered why there are so many Japanese cherry trees in Victoria. It was intriguing that Canadians of Japanese ancestry were uprooted from their homes and relocated to camps in the interior during the Second World War, including my grandfather Ishii and his family, while the Japanese cherry trees in Victoria, Vancouver and along the B.
In the s, Victoria City Parks superintendent Herb Warren began a campaign to replace the overgrown roadside native trees whose roots were heaving sidewalks and blocking sewage drains. Japanese flowering cherry trees were the right size, upright and ornamental. Warren envisioned canopies of blossoms to attract visitors and new residents. However, the Depression-era parks committee could allocate only so much toward tree stock and labour. In , Victoria held parades to celebrate the 75th anniversary of its incorporation. Since that time, people with ties to Japan have donated cherry trees as gifts in Victoria, Vancouver, and along the B.
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His generosity is remarkable because it occurred after the forced wartime relocation in , of himself and his family, along with confiscation of their property and goods, and the postwar ban on returning to the coast to live. Today, Vancouver is famous for its thousands of blossoming trees during springtime.
More than 40, cherry trees line the streets and live in the many parks of the city.
In Victoria, the beautiful pink and white blossoms are a trademark part of the city, attracting tourists and bringing locals pride and joy. The plum blossoms come out earlier, but the days still hold a chill in the air.
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But towards the end of March when the cherry blossoms begin to burst out, everyone can feel true spring in the warm air. The sakura represents a renewal of the cycle of the year as no other event.
If the sakura did not bloom each spring in the city, a void would be felt by all. The rationale from the parks department was that native trees are better suited to the effects of climate change than the imported cherry trees. The VNCS mounted a campaign to lobby against any uprooting of cherry trees, including issuing a news release and recruiting a tree biologist expert, Dr.
He stated that cherry trees have excellent adaptation capabilities regarding climate change better than most native species. In media interviews, the VNCS president expressed his opposition and sadness at the proposal to remove the cherry trees because of the historic connection of the trees and the Japanese Canadian community and that they are an iconic feature of Victoria that would be missed by everyone. Apparently, this menu is only available at the bar: a chalkboard listing the special sushi items serves as a menu for those at the tables.
It is, my dining companion declared, "the foie gras of Japan.
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Consider it a gift from the sushi gods. We also had a small platter. A tad less creamy but similarly divine was the wondrously oily shiny-red toro, the treasured fatty tuna belly, that simply melts like butter in your mouth. We quietly moaned as we polished off the Dynamite roll, which in fact is dynamite: huge chunks of fresh tuna, spicy mayo, scallions and — why not — crunchy tempura.
We were handed a small plate with Instagram-able food…a deep fried shrimp shell, with head and organs and a bit of meat. Crunchy, sweet and flavorful. Equally good: the body of the shrimp, served raw with hints of scallion and ginger. A surprise of an Ora King salmon sushi was rich, cut perfectly and heady with the flavor of a river somewhere deep in the Canadian mountains. But, truth be told, it was completely unnecessary.