Reading, Writing, Walking
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Ah, Japan: the home of sushi, 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. There was my amazement at seeing young people dress up like vampires and baby dolls and converging in front of a shrine. There was also my astonishment at finding out there were such things as fetish cafés there, where the waitresses were dressed up as French maids! But one of the more pleasant surprises I had was seeing how truly beautiful nature was in Japan.

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 lovely 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. Crows are the Japanese equivalent of our alley cats. They would perch above and watch you eat or take your trash out. Then as soon as you release your garbage, they would swoop down and tear through it.

After we had eaten, some of my friends decided to go off and play badminton. I was contented where I was so, I declined, sat back and took in more of the view. Several of the locals were playing badminton, too. But most of them continued to sit on their mats and drink. I saw a beer can in the hand of almost every member of each group in the park. This reminded me that alcohol was an integral part of a Japanese celebration. Food is good, but no party is a party without beer or sake.

Speaking of food, there's actually more to Japanese cuisine than just sushi and tempura. Like most developed cities, Tokyo has its share of store-bought prepared food. Looking about the park, I saw that the locals brought along plastic bento boxes containing food they had bought from the supermarket. (We were cheapskates. We prepared our own sandwiches.) Their food looked really tempting. There was rice topped with bits of dried seaweeds and sesame seeds. They had viands of tempura, teriyaki chicken or some breaded patty. And of course, they had colorful side dishes made from radish, lotus roots, and several other vegetables.

One thing I can say about Japanese cuisine (and almost anything Japanese, actually), is that they're very well-prepared. A bento box, even one from the supermarket, will always be garnished. There will always be this elegant play of texture and color. And just as the Japanese scenery in spring, it will always be physically designed to take one's breath away.

The cawing of the crows signaled the sunset. Our Hanami had come to an end. No doubt the locals would be off to continue their celebration with harder drinks somewhere in the bars of Shibuya. As we packed our things to leave, I couldn’t help but take one last look at the trees we had come all this way to admire. The flowers were half gone now, blown away by the cold spring wind.

I saw the Sakura bloom twice more after that. And even then, I couldn’t help but admire the small short-lived flowers. To my mind, the picture they created was perfect. The flowers in their numbers set against the clear blue sky were magnificent, while their delicate pink color and the crows that perched on their branches hinted at an underlying darkness. The scene they created was one of tranquility, of vulnerability, and of a sad and strangely Gothic type of beauty that makes memories of them ones I shall treasure in my heart forever.
I met a Japanese girl on line via Friendster. she is nice and barely speak english but that didn't matter because I met a new friend.

We only communicate when she is in New York for a seminar. I changed my number and I might not talk to her again.
I believe the Japanese culture is indeed marked by attention to detail. My last bento box was quite delightful.

Sad, though, they also served Chinese food.

I received a fortune cookie (popular american invention) and the fortune said, "For better luck, wait until spring"

I think fortune cookies are a bad idea
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