Cherry Blossoms closer to home

In the cherry blossom’s shade there’s no such thing as a stranger – Kobayashi Issa, Japanese poet


Delicate white cherry blossoms flaming into a feverish pink mark the beginning of spring in Japan. Under the flowering branches, haikus are written, sake is quaffed and fleeting life is celebrated. Frenetic travellers fly down to take in the ephemeral beauty of the flowers that are in bloom for merely a fortnight.
Life is like the cherry blossom, the wise Japanese would muse. This year, Meghalaya has decided to do a Japan with a cherry blossom festival of its own, and this one opened in the slight chill and early mist of autumn.


Dotted with clouds of cherry blossoms, the sprawling Polo Ground in the heart of Shillong resonates with the song, “We are the world/ We are the children.”

As evening descends, a crowd of thousands, including some from Japan, Australia, the US and Germany, move to the Ward’s Lake , a tourist hotspot of the city. Within minutes, the place is buzzing with storytelling, pop music, folk songs, classical Hindustani strains and fashion shows, which take centre stage in dizzyingly quick succession. The dimly illuminated cherry blossom trees, flowering around the lake, look mystical.


The second edition of India International Cherry Blossom Festival is here and is scheduled between November 8- 11. No need to fly to the U.S. or Japan, Meghalaya government has made it possible for all the enthusiasts to witness this extra ordinary festival in India itself.

The cherry blossom festival will be held in various locations of Shillong. The organisers of the four days event have lined up several activities for all the visitors. There will be guided night walks under illuminated cherry blossoms, live musical events, a beauty pageant, dance performances, photography competitions, bicycle rallies, storytelling sessions of local and world folktales , a women’s exhibition football match and a local golf cup.


The world’s only Autumn Cherry Blossom Festival is being organised by the Meghalaya Government in association with the Institute of Bio-resources and Sustainable Development (IBSD), A National Institute of Department of Biotechnology, and the Indian Council of Cultural Relations.

This year’s festival will be build on the success of last year’s festival. “Last year, nearly 30,000 tourists, mostly domestic, participated in the festival. This year, we are expecting a total of 50,000 foreign and domestic tourists,” said Chief Minister Mukul M Sangma.


The four days event will attracts tourists in large numbers, thus it is being expected that the festival will generate a lot of employment opportunities for the local population and revenue for the betterment of the state’s economy.  It has been noted that in Washington DC Cherry Blossom Festival generated about USD 126 Million every year by drawing in huge numbers of tourists.

Prof Dinabandhu Sahoo, Director of IBSD, said, “This festival will not only bring socio-economic development of the region but will also promote Peace, Prosperity and Sustainable Development, which is one of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals.”


Meghalaya is itself an attractive tourist destination and the state government may use this opportunity to promote state’s tourism. Apart from the cherry trees, one can try regional cuisine and also explore art and culture of the place.

The event saw its origin in India in 2015, when ISBD along with the Meghalaya government decided to plant cherry trees in different locations of Meghalaya such as New Shillong, Mawphlang and Ward’s Lake.


A similar initiative is being planned in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Cherry blossom is called sakura in Japanese and is a symbol of beauty, peace and tranquillity. Sakura is the national flower of Japan and most of the schools and public buildings have the tree on the campus.

Hanami — or cherry-blossom viewing — is a centuries-old practice. Some records indicate that hanami festivals might have started as early as 3rd century AD. The custom was originally limited to the elite of the imperial court but slowly spread to the samurais and then to the commoners.

Japan has a wide variety of cherry blossoms – more than 200 cultivars, the most common being the Yoshino cherry followed by the Japanese mountain cherry. Japan has been planting these trees in several countries to spread the message of peace and to strengthen bilateral ties. The country gave 3020 trees as a gift to the Unites states of America in 1912 and then another 3800 trees in 1965.


Today, cherry blossom viewing is a ritual across the United States, including the in the famous Sakura Park in Manhattan and the West Potomac Park in Washington DC. Japan has been promoting cherry blossom plantations in Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Turkey and the United Kingdom, among others.

In February this year, delegates of the Japanese Cherry Blossom Association visited India and planted the sakura at the Talkatora Gardens in Delhi.