The Japanese love the coming of the cherry blossoms as they signal the arrival of spring. In the first weeks of April they attend matsuri (festivals) and hanami (cherry blossom viewing parties). The matsuri associated with Daienji Temple (the local Buddhist shrine by our apartment) will occur on April 8th, so we're pretty excited.
"Hanami" have been a Japanese custom since the 7th century when aristocrats enjoyed looking at beautiful sakura (cherry blossoms) and writing poems & haiku. Nowadays, everyone takes out blankets, gathers with friends in a par, brings out food & generally gets tipsy from wine & sake.
The blossom season is lasting an unusually long time this Spring, as the weather has dropped mid-way through the season. It's great fun to hang out by the river and view the blossoms at night. See some more photos here.