It feels this winter is definitely giving way to spring far earlier than usual. This is probably making cherry blossoms impatient to get their annual show on the road. 

According to the Japan Weather Association, the flowers are expected to start blooming on March 17 in central Tokyo, nine days earlier than usual. However, the new  coronavirus that's going around now may put a damper on this year's "hanami" cherry blossom viewing parties.

But if all one wants to do is to simply sit outside on the grass and savor sake, there is absolutely no need to head to some popular--and invariably overcrowded--cherry viewing spot. In fact, you don't even need cherry blossoms to enjoy your booze in the great outdoors, says Nao Suzuki, a freelance writer who is promoting a recreational activity he calls "chairing."

To practice it, he explains, you just need to bring along a lightweight portable chair--and an alcoholic beverage of your choice--whenever you go on a leisurely stroll along a river or in a nearby park.

When you've found your favorite spot, sit in your chair and enjoy you drink. That's all there is to it.

This can be done solo. But if doing it in a small group, Suzuki cautions, you must refrain from getting rowdy, and make sure to bring home all your trash.

This activity opens your eyes to things you rarely stop to watch in your routine workaday life, like leaves swaying in the wind and clouds floating in the sky, Suzuki says in his book titled "Shinya Kosoku Basu ni 100-kai gurai Notte Wakattakoto" (Things I learned after about 100 rides on the midnight express bus.)

People reflexively associate the word "outdoors" with some strenuous activity, such as taking the car to a camping site in the mountains and pitching a tent.

But with "chairing," you need to take only half a step out of your daily routine to experience a new world, and that can even be on the porch of your own home.

The Japanese expression  "tanbai" denotes venturing into the woods in search of "ume" Japanese apricot blossoms.

It's actually not a bad idea at all to go on a walk and look at the trees and plants and clouds in the sky, instead of hitting city streets teeming with people.

Especially at a time such as now, it's good to savor the mild spring weather.


--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 22

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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.