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We are introducing a brand new series of Photo Essays! Take a look at these amazing Photo Sets, which explore the vibe of the city's hidden treasures in addition to it's well known landmarks. In this series, we'll take a look at the peaks of Vancouver through the lens of photographer Kevin Eng!
Vancouver's Cherry Blossom Trees: Welcoming the Spring
Each year around early April, Vancouver turns into a beautiful sea of white and pink, when the more than 40,000 Japanese cherry trees scattered around the city bloom. Even though the Japanese cherry tree does not yield fruit, thousands of its pink petals decorate the streets and parks, including Queen Elizabeth Park, VanDusen Botanical Garden, and Stanley Park.
Some people who are lucky to witness this stunning transformation ask themselves: How did so many of these magnificent trees end up in Vancouver in the first place, so far away from their homeland of Japan? Here is the answer: the trees were a generous gift from Japan to the City of Vancouver in the early 1930s and honour the Japanese-Canadian soldiers who fought bravely in World War I. Now, Vancouverites can enjoy the beauty of these flowery trees that have for centuries embodied powerful symbols in Japanese culture that symbolize the ephemeral nature of life.
“Hanami” is the centuries-old practice of picnicking under a blooming sakura, which is another name for the Japanese cherry. A privilege originally limited only to the elite of the Imperial Court that had the access to the Imperial Palaces, the habit soon spread to samurai society and much later on, even the “common” people could enjoy lunch and sake under the trees. The blossoms are widely used in traditional Japanese art, anime, and films; their extreme beauty — but also their very quick death — are often associated with mortality.
You may be a little surprised, but the cherry trees’ blossoms and leaves are actually edible and are commonly used as food ingredients in traditional Japanese cuisine. When pickled in salt and vinegar, they are used for coaxing out flavour in Japanese specialties such as wagashi (a traditional confectionery) or anpan (a sweet bun). When soaked in hot water, the blossoms are traditionally served at festive events such as weddings alongside other hot drinks and green tea. But should you try this out yourself, be very careful: the leaves contain coumarin, which is toxic when consumed in large doses.
We didn’t want to risk missing the high peak of the cherry blossom trees in Vancouver, so we have already visited the city parks with the highest number of the sakura trees. Make sure you check out the ongoing list of April events that are tied with the celebration of Japanese traditional and modern culture. Every spring, Vancouver holds the Cherry Blossom Festival that features many exciting events such as plein-air blossom painting in the VanDusen Botanical Garden (April 7 to 28), the Cherry Blossom Flash Mob (April 14), and the amazing tour of the cherry blossom trees, Bike the Blossoms (April 28).
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Meet the Photographer
Kevin's passion for photography has encouraged others to see the splendor and beauty of nature right at their doorstep, as he captures the sights of the day, and colors and mystery of world while it sleeps. Many of the subjects of his work are based locally in his hometown in Vancouver, B.C, where he first discovered his fascination with night photography. Kevin is a currently working as a music teacher, music director for his church, and landscape photographer.