At this time a year ago, I posted a column about the cherry blossoms at Kumamoto Castle.While still healing from the great earthquake, Kumamoto was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.I wrote the column to let as many residents as possible know the significance of the cherry blossoms at Kumamoto Castle.

Since then, the seasons have changed and we will soon welcome a new spring.The world is still at the mercy of COVID, and traveling is not as easy as it used to be.Given the circumstances, we’re living modestly and seeking clever ways to regain small pleasures we previously enjoyed, such as festivals and events (while keeping a close eye on the pandemic and measures against spreading the virus).

In the midst of these times, I decided that if I were to write one story about cherry blossoms in Kumamoto, it would be about the cherry blossoms along the avenue of Jieitai-dori in Kengun.Here, the countless Japanese cherry blossoms blooming all at once are a sight to behold. However, the cherry blossoms on Jieitai-dori in Kengun differ from other cherry blossom viewing spots not only because of their visual impact, but also because of the lively atmosphere created by all of the visitors gathered to enjoy the view.

Renowned for its 1.5 kilometers of cherry trees, Jieitai-dori Avenue is one of the most famous flower-viewing spots in Kumamoto.380 Yoshino cherry trees, one of the most beloved varieties in Japan, stand on both sides of this straight avenue. Visitors are certain to be awe-struck by the beautiful scene of petals falling from the endless row of cherry trees.

Jieitai-dori is usually busy with cars, but a huge part of the road (800 meters!) is converted to a pedestrian-only area from late March to early April for the Cherry Blossom Festival.During the festivities, various performers and stalls lining the street add to the excitement of the cherry blossoms, and visitors can enjoy strolling, barbecuing, and spending their time however they like.Plenty of stalls and even more people come out to feel the joy of spring under the cherry blossoms in full bloom, making this a true Kumamoto springtime tradition.

However, the Cherry Blossom Festival was not held last year—the COVID-19 pandemic took these lively few days away from us—and the Kengun Jieitai-dori Cherry Blossom Festival is faced with uncertainty again this year.I suppose it’s unavoidable for an event that attracts so many people. Nevertheless, we must all work together as we continue to fight against the coronavirus.I believe that one day we will once again be able to celebrate these wonderful cherry blossoms and the coming of spring together with all the people who make the festivities so great.