For the entire month of March, flowers begin to bloom in Vancouver, announcing that spring is finally coming. The first trees to blossom are the ones from the stone fruit family, being the peach, the cherry, and the plum trees the most common around the city.
In the VIII century, a tradition started in Japan known as Hanami, which literary means “flower viewing.” People gathered around to admire the plum and cherry blossoms, drank sake and wrote poems about the flowers. While Hanami was originally practised only by the highest social elites, it ended up spreading amongst the ordinary people years later.
The Hanami tradition made it all the way to Vancouver when in the early 1930’s the mayor of Yokohama gave Vancouver 500 cherry trees to honour the Japanese Canadians who fought in World War I.
Vancouverites liked the new trees so much that the City Board saw this as an opportunity to get rid of old trees that were damaging the city wiring and plumbing. They planted more than 2000 stone fruit “ornamental trees”.
In 1958, the Japanese consul donated another 300 cherry trees to the city as a sign of the eternal friendship between the two countries.
There are around 40,000 cherry trees in Vancouver of 54 different varieties, and 35% of the trees in the city belong to the stone fruit family.
Vancouverites still gather every year in various parks of the city to celebrate Hanami and have picnics under the pink and white blossoms. Some people still call the trees by their Japanese name, ume (Plum), sakura (cherry), and momo (peach).