Sakura holds of lot of significance for the Japanese. It’s history is long and intertwined with that of the country (though accounts diverge as to the origin of such significance) and the tradition of hanami is also important. Sakura and hanami symbolise the Japanese’s love for the beauty of life, the inner beauty of things, new beginnings (Sakura season falls around early April – the beginning of new school terms in Japan) and the appreciation of such things.
While it’s true that these days hanami is likely to be more of an excuse to get drunk and stagger round in the parks, it’s ‘supposed’ to be about sitting down, stopping and appreciating the beauty of such temporal flowers. In their fleeting beauty is symbolised the fleetingness of life – blink and you’ll miss it. Nothing is infinite, nothing lasts. One should be able to stop and appreciate the beauty of the flowers, and in turn the beauty of life and the things which life brings us.
Samurai, philosophers and famous Japanese figures alike all mention the need for such things, for such appreciation. And having enjoyed my first ever sakura season in Japan, I must admit this feeling of fleeting beauty, of a moment which never lasts as long as you’d want it to, is strange and at the same time deeply impressive. Maybe I’m getting old, but seeing all the cherry blossom trees two weeks later, with petals on the floor and their colours having changed from myriads of pink and white to shades of green is an odd feeling.
Whether you want to or not you find yourself drawn towards contemplation. Towards appreciating those finer things in life, the things which never last quite as long as you’d want them to. Being able to see this, to appreciate it but to also understand and appreciate that it must end is a feeling I’ve never really felt before without being brought to it by some personal event. It’s not like this is some new discovery, but more that this time round the feeling was brought by nature, and also by Japanese tradition to an extent, and it feels different to how it’s felt before. Like the impact of the realisation is stronger, and having a much more profound effect on me. After all life is short, you should cherish those moments which bring you joy, keep them in your heart and learn to appreciate them. Just like you should learn that when things are rough, there’s always something at the end of it that will bring back the balance.
The cherry blossom are all but gone now, and while I find myself a little sad biking or walking around, I also find myself a lot more peaceful and happy that I was there to experience it this year.
As for the Japanese, they sure as hell know how to have a good time when there’s a reason to have one. Or more accurately when it’s the thing to do to have a good time. Hell we even caught some people rocking a portable karaoke setup in the blowing wind. Now that’s dedication to relaxation!