Spring — the season of sakura (桜, cherry blossoms) — has finally arrived and the entire country has been transformed into a fairyland tinted pale pink.

In a heartening season of renewal after winter's chill, a wave of sakura washes over these islands. Usually the sakurazensen (桜前線, cherry blossom front)starts from southern Kyushu in late March before reaching Tokyo in early April and then northern Hokkaido in mid-May.

Not only are there many varieties of sakura to enjoy in bloom at this time of year, there's the much-loved custom of hamani (花見, flower-viewing) to indulge in, too. Though hanami translates literally as "flower-viewing," and normally refers to admiring cherry blossoms, in practice it translates as drinking, eating and having a good time together with family and friends under the cherry trees.