One of the most magical things you can see on this planet is the blooming of the cherry blossoms, called sakura in Japanese. They are the national flower and symbol of Japan. Each year, at the end of winter, the pink buds emerge from the dark tree trunks. It is literally like warm, colourful spring pushing through from cold, gloomy winter. It doesn’t take long before the buds open into magnificent, attention-grabbing flowers. The soft, delicate petals are usually pink, white or yellow. Some trees droop down, creating spectacular passage ways. Others stand tall, reaching for the skies. And others burst outwards in all directions making giant sakura mushrooms. But, they are fragile, fleeting things. Within a couple of weeks, the winds blow the petals away making room for the new green leaves. Some years, their lives are shortened even more by rain or snow.
The Japanese people have celebrated the sakura for years. They know a good thing when they see it! It’s tradition to get together with family or friends or colleagues and ‘picnic’ under the flowers. By picnic, I mean spread out a tarp, be merry and get drunk! They call this ohanami which translates as flower-viewing. There are plenty of family-friendly parks where kids can run around kicking soccer balls or flying kites. The park I went to the other day was a family park just like that. It wasn’t too far from my place, and I went there specifically because I’d read that it had 500 sakura trees. It sounded like it had potential to be amazing. And it definitely did not disappoint!!
I feel pretty stupid, but I can’t help smiling every time I see sakura trees. They just take my breath away. And, it’s not just because they are beautiful, but they also have a special meaning for me. Back in March 2011, the earthquake, tsunami and power plant disaster made my life come to a grinding halt. I had to relocate to Nagoya where I ended up staying temporarily for about 5-6 weeks. It was a stressful period, but as time went on things got easier. April came, as did spring… and the sakura. Seeing these gorgeous trees for the first time was like a symbol of new beginnings. It was literally a life metaphor… like the sakura that emerge from winter, we had emerged from a disaster. I knew that things were going to work out fine, possibly even great! And, this spring, my life changed again. I moved to Tokyo for a new job, a new home, a new life. Life couldn’t be sweeter.
So, here are some snaps from my neighbourhood…