Number 3 of “Ten things I love about Japan”.
Spring is a big deal in Japan, and sakura (the cherry blossom) is a very big deal. Trees have been in flower the last couple of weeks, depending on location, and I've been wishing I was sitting on a blue tarpaulin somewhere with friends, looking at a sea of white flowers.
Because that's what everyone does. Going out to look at flowers has an effeminate feel, to much current Western taste, but there's no such sense in Japan, and well might there not be: the blossoming of the cherry trees strikes any given place like a wave, with a few hints that it's about to arrive, an overwhelming surge for a week as all of the trees bloom together and the world is carpeted in white, a couple of weeks of aftermath --- and then it's gone, moving north through the islands.
That short season of hanami (looking-at-flowers) parties is the peak and the pivot of the year, with the best weather, and everyone out and involved. Picnics are held everywhere, and in cities you can see office girls out early, laying claim to a choice spot laid out with blankets or blue tarp, ready for the whole office to decamp for lunch in the open. This is a country that doesn't do things by halves, and hanami is at least one thing that it's pure pleasure to be a part of.
For more info: Cherry Blossoms (Sakura) at japan-guide.com