Friday, April 25, 2008
SPRING IN JAPAN by Mary Elizabeth Yu
Ah, Japan: the home of gyoza, geisha and giant robots. It was the beginning of spring when I first arrived Tokyo, and I must admit I'd had quite a number of surprises in the beginning of my stay there.
It was some time during the first week of April when some friends took me to Yoyogi Park, a huge garden in the Shinjuku-Shibuya area of Tokyo, for what they called a "Hanami." The word literally means, "see flowers," particularly, a small five-petaled flower called Sakura.
Sakura, or Cherry Blossoms, bloom only once and stay in bloom for only a few days in the beginning of spring. I was lucky enough to arrive in time for that.
When we arrived Yoyogi Park, the Sakura trees were filled pink with flowers. There were no leaves. Only unadulterated beautiful light pink. And when the wind blew, the blossoms fell from the trees like pink snow. It was exactly like the calendar pictures and comic book illustrations I'd seen of Cherry Blossoms. Even more breathtaking, in fact, because I could actually touch the beautiful flowers.
We spread a mat under one of the trees and had a picnic of sandwiches, chips and bottled tea... as did hundreds of other visitors spread out all over the park. We had a wonderful time eating, talking and admiring the celebrated blooms when I noticed some black spots on the Sakura trees.
Crows. Swarms of them. And there was something unsettling about seeing ominous black birds perched on harmless pink trees. Especially when one popular Japanese comic book claimed the reason why Sakura was pink was because the tree sipped the blood of a corpse beneath its roots, thus coloring what should have been white flowers.
We got used to them after a while, though. They had to be frightened away or the chicken-sized scavengers would take our food.