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Reminiscing Japan at the Flower Dome

The pandemic has wrought upon many severe misfortunes. Physical anguish, economical strangulation and emotional turmoil are not uncommon consequences faced by our international peers as the virulent virus threatens to engulf the world in its belly of torment and misfortunes. However, in some areas of the world that have managed to marginalize the debilitating detrimental effects of the virus, trivial misfortunes have magnified in dimension and depth, paving the way for new avenues in which garulous discussion and social dialogue can flourish. In Singapore the increasingly mundane level of new community infections have opened up a vacuum for the globetrotters to discuss and lament over their anguished incarceration to their homeland, a condition made critical by the seemingly invincible momentum of the virus, raging like wildfire through vast regions of the world.

Such a luxurious misfortune has urged some to explore the more well-hidden gems of their homeland or perhaps to attempt to discover a region within the motherland that may provide some sense of foreign nostalgia through design based on mimicry and imitation. As a patient who also suffers the diagnosis of mild internationalsickness (as opposed to homesickness), I have found myself to be a little longing of the trips I made to Japan during the halcyon days of free travel. One region that has provided some degree of that aforementioned nostalgia, duplicating in a fashion not at all pretentious nor dubious of the culture it has referenced, has been the Flower Dome.

Situated within the Gardens by the Bay, the Flower Dome is a stupendous glass greenhouse, listed by the Guinness World Records in 2015 to be the largest of its kind. While it boasts a plethora of exotica and probably sounds more like a horticultural student’s dream come true than a globetrotter’s ideal destination to fantasize of foreign lands, the Flower Dome also undergoes seasonal changes with regard to its décor and theme, one of its recurring themes being the famous Hanami (flower viewing tradition). 



Just about every year during the cherry blossom season, dozens of imported cherry and peach blossoms bloom in the center of the Flower Dome, fostering an atmosphere and illusion that helps one to delude themselves of their geographical location. The temperature in the Dome is set to brumal to aid the budding and blossoming of the flowers, enhancing the credibility of the illusion as the sharp departure from the sweltering, tropical climate fools the sweat glands and pain receptors. Visual receptors are of course, subjected to the full force of the façade as the mesmerizing unmistakable shades of pink in their soft, pastel graduations guarantee the authenticity of the illusion. In the unlikely event that the flowers fail to captivate and inspire your imagination, the mighty Torri gates, red-crowned cranes, Shoji and other omnifarious Japanese themed décor is sure to at least confuse your compass momentarily. 


Being the national flower of Japan, the Sakura displays have been a consistent favourite over the years. The long queues during this period makes its popularity evident and even with all the crowd control measures and restrictions this year, the Dome is still far from sparse and spacious. This unique appeal is attributable perhaps not only to its intrinsic charm and beauty but also to its enduring symbolism of ephemerality which emphasizes the transcendental nature of life, beauty as well as the inevitability of mortality. The flowers have such a strong sense of symbolism that it has been embraced by the Japanese military as well, notably in the last coded message of a Japanese colonel who communicated the words ‘Sakura, Sakura, Sakura’ to notify the Japanese HQ that the island of Pelelieu had fell before committing suicide during World War Two. An even more morbid but lesser known use within the Japanese culture has also been to bestow upon the kamikaze pilots the evanescent quality of the Sakura. This association was undertaken in order to fan the flames of the Japanese nationalistic spirit, where it was not uncommon for such pilots to be accompanied by branches of the Sakura tree as they took to the skies for their final mission. With such an intense symbolism underlying the innocuous beauty of the Sakura, the combination of both renders the Sakura not only a pleasurable sight but also one that evokes a deep sense of culture and history. 

This year, the Hanami featured another fan favourite alongside the flowery splendour. The iconic Hello Kitty brought another dimension to the foudroyant display and there was a designated location within the Dome to take a shot with an immaculately trimmed Hello Kitty topiary that was among the more prominent of the Kitty displays interspersed throughout the greenhouse. The site was so popular that crowd control officials had to be stationed to avoid overcrowding, evidencing the popularity of the inimitable icon that has a market value in the billions.

However, the pandemic’s interference with this year’s Hanami was palpable not only by the masks and crowd control but also by the removal of several key features that were present last year. For instance, one could no longer slip into traditional Japanese wear before taking picturesque shots of the floral exuberance. In addition, the multitude of Japanese stores that were usually brought in to sell tea, food and other paraphernalia had been left out as well. These changes have definitely diminished the vibrancy and vitality of the atmosphere leading to a more silent and pensive mood.

Still, even with the accommodations made to the pandemic, there is probably no better place to celebrate the Hanami in Singapore and to relish in the ravishing nostalgia of Japan. For those who wish to experience the Hanami in the upcoming year, it would probably be ideal to visit during the mid-term of the Hanami to witness the flowers at full bloom. (Towards the exordium and end phase, one cannot help but notice the bleakness of the trees especially when juxtaposition is made with the images captured on brochures.) While it may make sense to capitalize on a nice jacket considering the chill of the Dome, it is equally wise to embrace the ‘surprising’ chill of the Dome with a significant other by substituting the jacket for a more intimate experience. However, for those that are not afforded the luxury of choice, that nice jacket of yours is probably a good idea, especially if your body has been acclimatized to the torture of our climate.

Written by Z

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