Some of you might remember the kintai sakura from last year. It was dark, the lanterns were lit along the entire cherry blossom tunnel, and countless families had their own hanamis scattered under the cherry blossom trees.
It was spell-binding.
And when I think about the time passed since then, it takes my breath away...because it only seems like yesterday.
This year, we happened to do the same exact thing.
It wasn't quite as dark, this time, but it was just as enchanting.
There were only one or two stands left selling food, and the Sakura blooms were beginning to mix with their budding leaves - sure signs of the approaching end to Sakura season and the beginning of a rich, warm Spring.
I don't think I can describe to you the smell of a Japanese food stand - it's far too gripping for words.
The smell of fried chicken, roasting sweet potatoes, and simmering noodles - intermingled with the essence of soy sauce, fresh air, countless things served on sticks, and welcoming smiles from their servers - is almost too much to bear.
Those of you who have experienced this phenomenon know exactly what I'm talking about.
Last night's culinary show was no exception.
The food stands were just as reliable as always.
That's why I always carry extra Yen in my pocket, you know. Because you never know when you're going to come across a food stand worth buying things from.
There are so many in Japan.
It was a shorter visit to Kintai, this year. My week was busy, and we tried to gauge the perfect time to fight off the seasonal crowds.
But every year, when we do finally go, we always seem to come at a time such as this - when dusk has fallen heavily, and the Sakura season is quietly waning away.
There's something about this time in the season.
And I think I love it.
It's quiet, and uncrowded.
And all that's left of Sakura/Hanami season are a few scattered families picnicking under falling cherry blossom petals, and one or two quiet food stands still selling their delicious wares.
And it's lovely in it's own, muffled sort of way.
So here's to the ending of Sakura season....to the falling of the Cherry Blossom petals, and the beginning of warmer days; here's to food stands, the Kintai bridge, and yet another year to experience the fall of such a beautiful, characteristically Japanese season.
Here's to another year in Japan
I could not have asked for a better year, had I tried.