“Sakura” means “cherry blossom,” and by good fortune the timing of my visit to Japan. This day thus, was all about the blooms. We began with a lovely champagne brunch in a Ginza restaurant high atop Tokyo to put us all in good blossom-viewing spirits (it worked!). JF, the Kawagoe friend and I brunched with another of JF’s friends who will be relocating to Vienna, so we had much to chat about.

Tony and I are not “Brunch” people. On weekends we are typically out the door by 0900 either tromping about the Vienna Woods or pointing our wagon toward one of the neighbors. But every once in a while…we began with a small main course (I chose a fish of some sort with a plum glaze) and then were turned loose to explore the buffet arranged with the happiness of Mackerel Confit with Roe, Hokkaido Squash Soup, a Japanese Curry, and on and on; and sweets almost too beautiful to eat. The Champagne flowed freely, too, perhaps a dangerous thing at 1000 in the morning.

We departed this Bacchanal for a leisurely stroll with as many other people as there were blossoms along the Chidorigafuchi-ryokudo path around the moated Imperial Palace. The mood was festive; and the flowers showed off brilliantly against the blue sky and spring green. Every five steps warranted a pause to admire nature’s 360° cinema; I think I snapped close to 200 photos on this walk alone.

Adjacent to the Imperial Palace, a graduation event was taking place. We thought it funny that while the guys were relegated to boring dark suits, the gals were dressed in beautiful and bright traditional clothing!

But cherry blossom appreciation does not end when the sun goes down! “Ohanami” is the term for “cherry blossom viewing.” The blooms are quite special for the Japanese, and picnicking beneath the trees is a tradition dating back centuries. Following our 10km Ohanami, the real work began. Before we left for brunch JF and I staked our Ohanami place along the waterfront below their building; the protocol is to spread one’s picnic blanket and leave a note with your family name, which we did. Back from our walk, friends and food descended upon JF’s apartment. Salads were tossed; Sushi was arranged elegantly on platters; cheeses were drizzled with Yuzu honey; and paper cherry blossom lanterns were hung. (The tins of Manner Wafers that I had brought along were excitedly received, too!)

The evening was special and will be a fond memory for years to come! Friends and colleagues (some of whom I know through DH) laughed together, ate together, and made merry. We were in good company with other groups large and small doing the same up and down the Sumida riverfront; and when river cruise boats with their pink lanterns would sail past, everyone waved and toasted, “Kampai!” Straw Man and his family made an appearance; I happened by him just as he was “commenting” that the SPAM Masubi JF had prepared was, “Hawaiian, and not Japanese.” (Eye roll. He brought POPCORN.)

It being a work night for some, the Ohanami parties up and down the riverfront disbanded at a respectable time. Just a day and change remaining for me on this adventure…