Cherry Blossom in Takyama ©Solange Hando
When winter draws to a close, the whole of Japan looks forward to the arrival of cherry blossom.
Every night on the news, the weather is followed by the 'cherry blossom forecast.'
Blossom in the Mountains ©Solange Hando
It starts in the south in the subtropical island of Okinawa, reaching Tokyo late March and finally the northern island of Hokkaido in May.
But should you miss it on the plain in Honshu, the main island, you might catch it in the mountains where it comes out later.
Springtime in Honshu Island ©Solange Hando
As iconic as Mount Fuji, Japanese cherry trees claim over 200 varieties, producing all kinds of blooms, from the most delicate flowers to frothy clouds of colour in every shade of red and pink or white, the rarest and definitely a favourite.
Hanami Treats ©Solange Hando
Hanami, or flower-viewing, is enjoyed throughout the islands, with music and dancing, lots of parties and feasting on blossom-flavoured snacks, sweets, dumplings, kitkats, crisps,pastries, beer and even suitably flavoured Starbucks latte.
Cherry Blossom in Hida Folk Village ©Solange Hando
According to legend, Hanami began in the 8th century when Emperor Saga and his Kyoto Court offered flowers to the spirits dwelling in the trees. This was accompanied by plenty of sake, the traditional rice wine.
'Pink Snow' in Matsumoto ©Solange Hando
After just a couple of weeks, blossom falls from the trees carpeting the land with 'pink snow'. For many Japanese this is the time to remember that life is short and like the beautiful cherry blossom, we are just passing through.
Lovely Blossom in Tokyo ©Solange Hando