The delicate new cherry blossom is out now on the trees but it is not really doing anything for me. I prefer the clusters of rich flowers in magenta, white and luscious pink in vast eiderdowns of canopies in Ueno Park and along the river in Meguro, where my parents and I once turned a corner onto the sheer gaspworthy splendour of the scene, our eyes brimming with tears the beauty was so immediate; crowds all in photo-snapping jubilation, by the thousand.
That was several years ago. Today we were out in Kamakura on a grey humid day; the sea and the sakura drab, uninviting. But I was stopped in my tracks by the woozy, rich drowsy scent of these flowers, heavy with pollen, and an almost hops-like new fecundity that drew me in on the side of the road to smell them up close.
Were they linden/ tilleul/ lime blossom? A not dissimilar fragrance. But then I noticed the shape of the leaves and broke one off to smell it – ah yes, bay laurel. Bay blossoms. I didn’t know such a thing existed. But the uprush of feeling – that heart searing adrenaline of early spring – took me back to the pained ecstasy of my university days, when I was always escaping the headfuck of academia and everything else by breaking into the secret college gardens that you weren’t meant to go into; deeply inhaling the piercing air and sweet heartbreak of the almond blossom; hawthorn, and mock orange.