Sakura Season

From early March when I was in Tokyo places all over started advertising sakura (cherry blossom) flavored items, but it wasn’t until a week or so ago that the trees actually burst into bloom. Suddenly campus was full of blossoming flowers just as classes began again. On our way to one of our first classes as we traveled down the main road lined with sakura trees and packed with students my friend made the oh-so-intelligent quote, “This is the most Japanese thing I’ve seen! Cherry blossoms and Japanese people!”

And while we laughed at her, the cherry blossoms themselves really do paint a picture of stereotypical Japan. On the way home that day I felt like I was living in an anime when I saw high school students riding bicycles beneath the sakura trees.

The sakuras blooming means 花見 (hanami) parties a-plenty. Hanami means flower viewing. So families, groups of friends, and school clubs all grab tarps, food, and maybe some alcohol, go to wherever the best trees are, set up camp and enjoy the view all around them. I’ve been told there are times when popular viewing areas get so crowded you have to go rather early to procure a good spot. Luckily Saijo isn’t a terribly big town, so every time I went there was no problem getting somewhere with a nice view.

The first hanami party I attended was with the jazz circle. This was held rather early, so the trees were only just starting to bloom. The weather was also rather rainy and unpleasant, but we weren’t to be deterred from our planned event. Just outside of the building where the jazz circle’s practice room is there are four or five sakura trees. At the time they were only just starting to become pink with flowers. Despite the misty rain the weather was rather warm. So with umbrellas in hand we sat outside and people got to know each other. My English friend and I at first tried to converse with a group of freshman boys whose only response to, “Nice to meet you,” was, “Yeah…” Luckily there were a pair of girls who were much more enthusiastic about conversing with foreigners. We ended up spending most of the night talking to them, and though I haven’t seen them since I hope to run into them soon. They were very easy to talk to.

The second party was Thursday when the weather outside was beautiful. We went to nearby Kagamiyama Park and, aside from the lumps in the ground, got a rather prime sakura-viewing spot. By this time the trees were at the peak of their glory. When the wind picked up and the daytime warmth dwindled we ended up going to the same local bar that had previously served us habanero takoyaki. We hung out there until late into the night joking and playing darts.

The third was the next day and part of a joint birthday celebration for two of the students in our program. We ended up almost in the same spot as the day before. Though the forecast had promised rain it actually ended just before we went to the park, leaving us with surprisingly pleasant weather. The birthday boy had made a reservation to continue the party at an izakaya at 8:30, but when the time approached he said, “I kind of wish we could stay here now.” Of course, by the time we started our party at the izakaya, no regrets were had.

The last hanami party was the next morning. It was an event meant to introduce Japanese people from around Saijo to international students. This time a large place was reserved up on the hill of Kagamiyama Park from which you could see the bright blue tarps of other groups all the way down between the branches of sakura trees. Despite being sleepless from the party the night before everyone joined in the activities and enjoyed the scenery – we probably had one of the best spots in the park. When the hanami ended a group of us trekked down to campus and played soccer. Though I was feeling quite fatigued from several days straight of going out it was nice to run around. Those who organized this game said they wanted to make it a weekly event. I’m no good at soccer, so I wonder if I can convince everyone to play tennis?

I noticed today on my way to jazz practice that the trees are already starting to shed their pedals. Apparently at hanami, one is supposed to contemplate the transience of things – they come and go just as quickly as the flowers do. I snapped a photo of one of my friends staring at the branches as if he were contemplating such a thing:

He told me in reality he was just staring into space.

With hanami parties out of the way, my life will start going back to a regular pattern. Classes, jazz, darts. But I suppose even this routine will only last so long. More than half a year has passed already. It’s hard to believe. There are so many things I wish I had more time for. I wonder what I can accomplish in the next few months?

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~ by megumiwasframed on April 17, 2011.

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