Monday, March 13, 2006

Spring has sprung...

With the arrival of the plum blossoms in Utsunomiya, I think it is time to officially declare that Spring has finally arrived out here. I found the winter pretty harsh this year. Not because of the cold of course, -5 degrees as a nighttime low isn't much to get excited about when you're used to seeing temps down to -30s and -40s, but because everything was just dead and there was no snow. I guess in Canada, the snow piles up on top of everything and makes things look nice... out here is was just dark and grey... but all over now!

Scott and I took a quick walk yesterday out to a temple near Hachimanyama park where I had seen some plum blossoms sprouting when we drove by last Friday. Not sure the name of this temple, but it will definitely be a prime destination when Cherry Blossom time comes around as they've got loads of trees around, including one behemoth which is over 400 years old. For now though, the ume is just starting to poke out of the buds, and the fragrance was wonderful.

There are a few varieties of trees out here, some white, yellow and purple ones, and most of them are at about the same stage.

This plum tree overlooked a graveyard.

This is the main temple building, with of course Utsunomiya's answer to the Eiffel, CN and Tokyo towers in the background.

Behind this temple was an interesting gaggle of sculptures, some new, some very old. They seem to each represent an aspect of day-to-day life, with some eating Ramen and others playing Rugby or taking a bath. Quite interesting.

I think this feller was my favourite, just taking a nap on a bench somewhere no doubt.

After the temple, we headed up into Hachimanyama to see where the cherry blossoms were at, at there's no action on that front yet. But the viewing will be amazing here. There are quite simply hundreds of cherry trees sprouting all over the grounds of the park, and work crews were there yesterday getting ready for the throngs of people who will be moving through this park in the next few weeks. All of these are cherry trees, and many more are in other sections of the park.

So needless to say, you can expect to see this blog take a pictorial turn to the flowery side as that is essentially what early spring is about in Japan. We'll be having lunch under the trees quite frequently so long as the temperature holds, since there are apparently food stalls that pop up here and there throughout the park for people to do just that.

On another note, the Japanese Self Defense Forces seems to be in exercise mode. Last Friday and again this morning, I've seen flights of military helicopters right out of Apocalypse now flying around. About 12-20 choppers in tight formation making swooping runs over the city... I assume based out of Suzumenomiya, just one stop down the JR line from here. Thankfully they have some consideration and aren't doing this at 6AM....

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