This year there will be no o-hanami (cherry blossom viewing) for me as I sit here basking in 78 degree weather on a typical spring day in Las Vegas. Usually, cherry blossom season is quite cold and windy in Tokyo, but nevertheless people have their picnics under the fully-blooming cherry trees where they can admire the spectacular beauty of spring. Last April, I wandered around the campus of Tokyo Institute of Technology, which was two blocks from where I lived in Ookayama in greater Tokyo. It was an unseasonably warm (nearly 70 F), sunny spring day, and the dozens of 100-year-old cherry cheers that lined the entrance to the campus were in full bloom. Every tree had rows of families and friends spread out on blankets under its arching branches. It was a sight that will live in my memory forever.
It's really hard to get used to only having two seasons now that I've left Japan. In fact, May 29 will mark my one-year anniversary of living back in the U.S. and it's been a big adjustment, especially weather wise. I loved the changes of seasons in Japan, a country that celebrates each new season with seasonal food, traditions, and festivals or other special activities. While there are many parts of the U.S. that have four distinct seasons, the ones I remember best were those I spent in the Greater Seattle area with its full array of seasonally blooming trees, shrubs and flowers, or changing leaf colors. It, too, was spectacular in its seasonal beauty.
And then there's Las Vegas. While there are many things that bloom in the desert in spring, I will never get used to such a dry, brown landscape, especially now that water conservation measures are being more fully embraced. People are digging up their lawns and replacing them with desert landscaping that requires little or no water. It's good for the environment, but makes everything look even more like the surrounding desert. Maybe that's why the new trend of painting houses in a wider array of autumn tones started. When I first started coming here to visit my daughter and her husband, all (and I mean ALL!) of the houses were painted very pale shades of tan or cream. They also all had bright green lawns and shade trees. Now, the houses are taking on more color, I suppose to make up for the drabness of the landscaping around them, although there are some newer areas that are beautifully landscaped with palms, mesquite, and other desert greenery.
So, even though I won't be viewing those gorgeous cherry trees this year, I suppose I'll just enjoy the beautiful blue skies and warm spring temperatures here in Vegas. . .and pray that summer doesn't arrive too soon.