Here's a clip from Peter Paynes's of J-List newsletter I get via email. Yes, the cherry blossoms are in bloom! And the technological level of the average Japanese housewife. I think his articles about everyday life in Japan are fascinating… and occasionally, I buy something! ^^
The Season of the Sakura has come to Japan, and all throughout the country cherry trees are exploding like beautiful fireworks. One of my favorite Japanese traditions is hanami or flower viewing, which usually involves spreading a tarp under the cherry trees and having a party with your friends, drinking lots of beer and sake while the petals fall all around you. Flower viewing has been popular in Japan since the beginning of its written history, with the first hanami recorded in the Nara period (710-784), although the word initially applied to viewing of ume or plum flowers, which are also pretty. (Flower viewing is also mentioned in the Tale of Genji.) Because the window for cherry blossom season is so narr ow — in another week the sakura will have been scattered to the four winds — it can be difficult for people living outside Japan to plan a visit, as unseasonably colder or warmer weather can move cherry blossom viewing season up or down in the calendar. Fortunately, Japan is oriented quite vertically, so if the cherry blossom season has ended in the Tokyo area, for example, you can travel farther north and catch the flowers at their best in some other part of the country. If you're not lucky enough to be in Japan during this time of year, maybe you can still enjoy Japanese cherry blossoms, as many cities (Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Vancouver) have great spots for viewing sakura, too.
My wife is having a challenging time right now. Our daughter starts the sixth grade in April, and by unwritten tradition parents are expected to join the school's PTA leadership for a year and do various things for the school and the community at large. These include organizing the kids walking to school into groups (called han) and choosing a group leader (called hancho, where we get the word Head Honcho from) who will be responsible for the group, especially the new crop of first graders who will walk to school with the bigger kids. The PTA also signs up neighborhood parents into "flag waving brigades," who position themselves at street corners along the routes the kids walk to school and make sure the children get to school safely each morning. My wife is in charge of creating materials to be distributed to all parents of elementary school kids in our part of the city, which involves compiling Excel documents with the names of new teachers so parents can have information on the changes for the new school year. She has several assistants, but they're not much help: as a rule, many Japanese are often happy with lower levels of technical skill than you'd generally find in the U.S., and none of the housewives in the group has a computer or knows what Excel is, making a lot of extra work for her.