Springwatch In Japan: Cherry Blossom Time
The Sakura (cherry blossom) spring is one of the world’s most stunning ‘natural’ wonders, as blankets of iconic pale pink flowers fleetingly transform Japan’s towns, cities and countryside. This Easter, presenters Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and James Wong will join hundreds of thousands of other travellers visiting Japan to indulge in ‘Hanami’ – the national tradition of flower watching for a special Springwatch In Japan: Cherry Blossom Time.
As each follows their own Sakura stories, the trio will learn that the arrival of the blossom is not just a spectacle of nature – it has become one of Japan’s most important cultural moments, influencing the economy, tourism, and family tradition. The presenters will look back to the Sakura’s ancient origins and how the arrival of the blossom represented the fleeting beauty of nature and also human life.
For Chris Packham, the Sakura will be a chance to explore the wildlife that lives in harmony with the blossom. The Japanese white-eye has been perfectly designed to enjoy the cherry blossom, and can be seen everywhere at this time of year. Chris goes in search of this tiny bird to explain just why it can live in such harmony with the Sakura. And, with Hanami parties in full swing, he’ll encounter the elusive nocturnal creatures living in the city suburbs. These are the raccoon dogs, or Tanuki, who come out to feed on the party scraps.
For ethnobotanist James Wong the trip is a chance to look at the amazing phenomenon of the trees themselves. Here, he learns that the most popular Sakura is unable to fertilise future generations of trees – so all the blossom orchards are man-made. Travelling to Mount Yoshino, where 30,000 trees delight the annual visitors, James joins the group of dedicated Sakura gardeners who ensure the survival of the spectacle by planting new trees every year. And in Kyoto he meets one of the revered ‘Sakura’ doctors who dedicate their lives to keeping the trees healthy.
Michaela Strachan’s journey starts in Tokyo, where she meets the blossom bees. Pesticides are banned in the city, so the bees have access to clean nectar sources – particularly the Sakura. With Hanami at the heart of the season, Michaela and Chris join revelers in one of Kyoto’s large parks to discover how different generations celebrate the Sakura, including the Japanese students celebrating the season in their own way.
This BBC Two one-hour ‘as-live’ special will celebrate this spring blossom time, from the frenetic energy and consumerism of the city, to moments of tranquility and serene beauty in the spiritual mountains of Yoshino, as James Wong visits the ‘Pink Mountain’ – reputedly the best place in the world to see cherry blossom.