In Japan, the cherry blossom is the most sublime of all flowers and has been admired for over 10 centuries for its fleeting beauty. It has inspired songs, poets and painters and even the very mentality of the Japanese. Many Japanese' favourite time of the year is the moment when the cherry trees come into bloom, producing the blossoms known as "sakura" in Japanese. This period, from the middle of March to the middle of April, also coincides with the beginning of spring. From the south to the north of Japan, the blossoming of the cherry tree marks the end of winter. Little by little the flowers inundate the whole of Japan with a shower of petals which fill both young and old with wonder. Marvelling at the flowers used to be known as "Hanami" and it marked the time for religious ceremonies when the beauty of the cherry blossom was enjoyed and the quality of the year's rice harvest was estimated. People eat and drink beneath the trees in celebration of the auspicious signs. Everything in the architecture of buildings and the design of gardens is planned so that with the coming of springtime a blossoming cherry tree enhances its surroundings.