Since we first arrived in Japan, I have been fascinated by the cherry blossom or sakura. The five petal cherry blossom is seen everywhere in classical and pop cultural throughout Japan. Cherry blossom viewing is so popular a past time that the national weather service of Japan provides a blossom tracker so that people will know where the blossom are blooming and on what date. The viewing parties usually involve sake, food, and friends. No wonder the idea is catching on around the world! Cherry blossom viewing festivals are held in the USA in Washington, DC and also in Macon, Georgia. Because cherry blossoms have short blooming times and are fragile, the japanese have used to symbolize the transience of life and as a reminder to celebrate the beauty found in the moment.
Today we were walking through a park in Hachinohe, I spotted the first cherry blossoms we have seen this spring. There was a group of children playing around the tree, attempting to climb on the branches. Two little girls clutched a few small branches from the trees, admiring the beautiful white petals. As we approached the tree, one of the little girls ran up to me and began to introduce herself in japanese. I introduced my husband and myself and realized that I had just ran out of japanese conversational phrases. No matter. Although there was a language barrier and an age difference of about thirty years, we were both drawn to the beauty of the cherry blossom tree and both enjoyed the first signs of spring.
Ono no Komachi: The hue of the cherry (9th C. CE)
The hue of the blossom
fades too quickly from sight
all for nothing
this body of mine grows old —
spring rain ceaselessly falling.