A little cherry blossom magic in suburban Kawasaki
Yesterday was a perfect introduction to spring in Kawasaki. The skies were blue with little wind, and the warm temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) encouraged people to step out of their homes.
Any other year we would be excited about the sensational conditions for picnics associated with hanami and the lovely riverside sakura trees waiting with blossoms nearing full bloom.
Joining friends or colleagues under cherry trees to gaze at the spring flowers (hanami) while breathing in the delicious aromas of the season has been practiced since the Nara Period in the eighth century. It’s part of the Japanese DNA.
It was a Saturday, and the atmosphere was idyllic for epic parties and the exciting celebration of the winter’s end. In times with less disruption, we'd join the crowd energized by expectations and the momentum of a society moving deeper into the new year.
As we approached the waterway, we observed groups of rebels sitting under trees and ignoring directives for social distancing. (Perhaps they couldn’t resist the rare opportunity to lay down their blanket on a prime location and enjoy the splendor at our Shukugawara hanami destination). We did not observe the shoulder to shoulder crowds squeezed into every available space along the river. (Not this year.)
Most of our community elected to walk and gaze at the enchanting blossoms gracing each side of the Nikaryo-yosui, which is a channel resembling a large stream. In some places, the branches almost touch, forming a breathtaking arch of pink flowers. The scenery can attract thousands of visitors to our quiet suburb.
As we walked along the stream and enjoyed the floral transformation of our neighborhood, a sense of calm prevailed. The trees planted hundreds of years ago have listened to the people as they sipped warm sake and ate their obento. The conversation is traditionally jovial, but some years can touch upon fears.
Japanese communities have shared worries of war, economic collapse, earthquakes, tsunami, and disease under the cherry tree’s branches throughout history. Will we ever be able to avoid these challenges?
The Sakura trees deliver their bounty of exquisite blossoms annually without concern for the human condition. Some might find comfort in their consistency.
My Japanese wife feels happy when she sees the cherry blossoms. There's something very comforting in her approach.