Photo/Illutration A family takes a photo with cherry blossom trees in the Yonomori district of Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, on April 2. (Yosuke Fukudome)

I must be a bit forgetful, as the breathtaking beauty of cherry blossoms takes me by surprise every spring. Another surprise comes from remembering how ephemeral their beauty is.

Poet Fumio Kataoka (1933-2014) wrote in "Sakura" (Cherry blossom): "It's night / Cherry petals are falling in the sky." And he described the beauty of the blossoms in full bloom: "For just a short time / The cherry petals illuminate the ground under our feet / With light like none other."

Probably because of the mild spell we had at the end of this past winter, the "cherry blossom front" this year is traveling north earlier than usual.

This is our second spring of not being allowed to revel in "ohanami" cherry blossom viewing parties.

The blossoms in my neighborhood have already peaked, but their splendor remains in the fallen petals dyeing the ground pink and forming "floral rafts" on water.

Wondering where the flowers are still in full bloom across the nation, I read in yesterday's morning edition of The Asahi Shimbun that the Yonomori district of Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, is one such spot.

There is a street lined with cherry blossoms that is well known to locals. But being only 7 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the area has become deserted since the 2011 nuclear disaster.

The neighborhood is still under partial evacuation orders and only about half the street is accessible to visitors.

The Asahi ran a story about a young couple who came to pose for their wedding photo.

"We wanted to have our picture taken in our hometown," they were quoted as saying. "The cherry blossom trees are beautiful as usual."

A haiku by Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) goes: “Samazama no koto omoidasu sakurakana" (Cherry blossoms revive many memories).

People can readily relate to this poem, probably because the beauty of the blossoms jolts them into recalling and thinking about certain springs of the past.

Some memories are painful. But since happy memories grow over time, I believe people can keep going.

--The Asahi Shimbun, April 6

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.