One of the most longstanding and recognizable symbols of Japan is the humble cherry blossom tree, or Sakura.
Every year, the Sakura trees blossom into magnificent totems of dark wood contrasted by a dazzling array of pink flowering cherries. These flowers are known as sakura, or sakura blossom.
However, the sakuras bloom for only a very short period of time. In the Tokyo region, they typically blossom at the end of March and reach their full bloom within a week and a half. By the third week, all but a scant few petals remain on the trees as the rest billow in the wind and scatter along the ground.
Thus, they are revered throughout Japan for not only their beauty, but for the enduring metaphor of the ephemeral nature of life that they represent.
This concept is known as `mono no aware`, lit. the pathos of things, and can be thought of as the Japanese term used to describe impermanence. However the nuance of the concept has a more poetic connotation – it is the idea that in the transience of all things, there exists a gentle sadness in its eventual passing and it is in this awareness of impermanence that heightens the appreciation of its beauty. Interestingly, this is a notion that is reflected throughout both historical and contemporary Japanese culture.
Personally, I find this to be a beautiful way of looking at the world. Too often, we get caught up in the responsibilities, obligations and troubles of daily life. We constantly find ourselves thinking about the future and looking forward to the next big thing, never bothering to slow down and just enjoy the moment. If you think about it, the present is all we have. I mean, you hear that a lot but really THINK about it. Each moment is always, forevermore cascading seamlessly into the next. There is only an ever unfolding “now” and the only way to really and truly live is to live in the moment and appreciate it.
The Japanese are pretty good at understanding this, or rather, at least once a year when the feeling is especially poignant during Cherry Blossom season. Every year around this time, people hold Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing parties. Friends, coworkers, and families put out tarps on the floor and hold picnics to view the cherry blossoms and enjoy each other`s company with food and drink.
This year, a bunch of the Gunma JETs and ALTs gathered together for a Hanami at Takasaki Park. Although this year there was a notable decrease in Hanami parties due to the events of March 11, many people, us included, decided that the best way to show solidarity for Japan was to appreciate the cherry blossoms and reflect on the fleeting nature of life together.
After the hanami, I went for a drive with my friend Jeevy (red car). We drove down the worn down streets of old Japan and as the cherry blossom petals fell over the road, and whisked about in the air around us, we decided to stop for a few pictures.
As i write this, the cherry blossoms are almost gone. Although I`m sad to see them go, I know that they wouldn`t be as beautiful if they never left.