Spring in Japan is bathed in pink, as cherry blossoms (sakura) awaken the dull winter landscape and life begins anew.   Each year weathermen forecast the precise area for peak local sakura viewing with detailed maps, much like the fall foliage tracker in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but much more intense.  Large crowds flock to castle parks and along river fronts to hold a “hanami,” a sort of picnic where one is to contemplate the shortness and beauty of life extrapolating from the brief life of the plentiful pink blossoms.  Of course, that could be the sake talking as these picnics often turn into all day/night parties of a very festive atmosphere where offices will send out a person to hold their spot of ground and party until the moonlight illuminates the sakura.  Commercially, the sakura season does well as stores sell any and everything Sakura themed. Starbucks even makes a Sakura Latte flavored with real petals here.  The springtime Sakura and Hanami are very uniquely Japanese that took on a somber tone this year though.  Sakura had just begun to bloom in southern Japan, on Kyushu, when the March 11 earthquake hit.  Every year the military base here opens its doors to the locals and have a large Sakura picnic, as most of the major streets on base are lined with large, old Japanese Cherry trees.  The base picnic was canceled as most families had evacuated, and Angela left without seeing any blooms.  I didn’t even have a camera to take pictures of our very own Sakura blooming in our front yard, so I bought one and tried to enjoy the beauty.  The trees really were magnificent, just sad this year.  The petals became so voluminous that walking into a breeze it looked like pink snow, and streams soon ran pink with petals.  A few short weeks and the blooms were gone, and a saddened country remained.  Next year the Sakura season will likely be quite an event as Japan marks one year since the earthquake and will no doubt enjoy hanami again and contemplate the shortness and beauty of life (and I can enjoy it with a Hanami of our own with AJ, Angela, and myself contemplating the beauty of life, though AJ will likely spend it begging for food!)