Sakura Flowers Flourish in the Aloha State

Splashes of pink primp up the verdant landscape as delicate cherry blossom buds awaken to articulate their ornate beauty. Each spring, passersby who relish the transient bloom of the sakura are partaking in hanami (flower viewing), but rather than doing this at Hirosaki Castle Park or Shinjuku Gyoen in Japan, they are doing it right in Hawaii.

Over 60 years have passed since the first cultivar was planted by Choro Nakasone in Wahiawa on Oahu. With seeds obtained from Naha in Okinawa, the neighborhood of what was known as the pineapple town sought to be also known for its sakura, so homeowners took to planting trees in their front yards which grace California Avenue and adjacent side streets.

Now with over 500 hundred trees blooming in late January to early February, the Wahiawa Nikkei Civic Association traditionally plans a Sakura Safari, a 90-minute guided trolley tour around the town while the seasonal flowers are expressing their magnificent glory. Thousands flock to the sleepy town annually to enjoy a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood to take in views of the breathtaking blushing canvas.

For those on the Big Island, a smaller cluster of 75 sakura trees may be enjoyed around the same time each year in Church Row Park in the northern town of Kamuela. The Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival organizes a one-day multi-cultural live production including taiko drum and ukulele performances, bonsai displays, origami folding, traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, and mochi pounding.

People can also enjoy the elegant flowers in the form of a macadamia nut shortbread from Big Island Candies. The floral-shaped confections featuring a pink pearl candy baked into the center, and a version glazed with a creamy white coating and sprinkled with pink sugar crystals are available for a limited time via two tasteful gift boxes: one here, and the other right here.

Photo credit: J. Jay West