While we in Britain might be able to tell that spring has arrived by the call of a certain bird or the appearance of a particular plant, in Japan there is one big way the whole nation tells spring has arrived: the blooming of the cherry blossoms.
For the first time, Springwatch has gone abroad, with Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan examining the impact of the sakura – the pink flowers of the cherry blossom trees, which are so adored in Japan that people from all walks of live hold parties and picnics to view the plants. They, along with new member of the team James Wong, look at how the sakrua became so attached to Japanese society, as well as how the plants play roles with the rest of country’s environment. This ranges from shopping for sakrua-themed confectionary in Kyoto, to late night picnics in Tokyo, to staying out late at night to see tanuki – the Japanese raccoon dog (which is neither a raccoon or a dog).
This may not be a live programme like Springwatch normally is, but this version of the show does have many high points. There is the scientific understanding of how the sakura grow and trying to predict when the blossoming will occur. Then there is also a religious aspect, understanding the connection between the blossom and aspects of Buddhism. You also have some interesting factual features, such as the fact that 80% of all the sakura trees are identical.
You still have the presenters being their usual selves of course, such as Packham coming up with his own term to explain why the blossoming occurs at different speeds across the country, due to what he called “blossom lag”.
It was a good episode, whether you are keen on nature, Japanese culture, or a beginning in both.
Springwatch in Japan: Cherry Blossom Time is on BBC iPlayer.