Top Story: 4.April 2007
Sakura, Passage of Time and Fleeting Life
Everyone has heard of sakura, the cherry blossom. As I'm writing this, it is the best time to view sakura in Tokyo. People gather under sakura trees for o hanami, friends, families, lovers, cats and dogs. They eat onigiri, drink Japanese sake, and all of them have gentle smile in their face. And everyone sighs when breeze of wind causes the petals to dance to the ground.
© Jaakko Saari
Sakura has been long time inspiring songwriters, novelists, painters, artists, and scientists. There is no end to the referrals of sakura in the Japanese movies. Hatsukoi (2000 Tetsuo Shinohara) tells about family mother suffering from cancer in hospital. When sakura starts to bloom she remembers meeting her first love, under cherry tree. She and her family gather together last time to view the sakura in night time. The movie Gohatto (1999 Nagisa Oshima) also peaks into a scene which very well has a cherry tree. Movies, TV dramas, paintings, all, often feature this stunning event of falling sakura.
Why sakura has such amazing power to move the entire nation?
Japanese have strong sense of seasons. This is visible in many things, in traditional kimono colours, the way how Japanese celebrate national events and of course in o hanami. Japanese customs, habits and beliefs, all have connection to season. Japanese poetry, haiku, should have at least one reference to the season.
Spring in Japan is very comfortable time. Uguisu (Japanese Bush Warbler) is crying, gentle breeze is blowing and grass is already becoming green. Occasionally yellow sand blows from desert in China, and families are booking flights to abroad in approaching Golden Week. Spring is also time for omiai and weddings which take place often in parks. Many Japanese young women have dream to get married in season of hanami, and take wedding photos under cherry trees. And yes, they do drink sakura tea. In the old times, young couples used to meet under cherry tree.
Perhaps the secret of sakura blossoms is that it lasts only a short time. It symbols the fleetingness of human life. The blossoms open for a moment, and before you notice they start to fall. The extreme, passionate tones of white and pink appear, and then disappear.
Appearance of sakura marks one period finished in lives of the Japanese, schools have their graduation parties, and new year begins.
Japanese novelist Kajii Motojirou wrote in his story that under every cherry tree is buried a dead body. Perhaps he wanted to say that sakura could be a symbol of human spirit. And that we should remember to appreciate life.
During the war, Emperor wrote poem in which he said "Every human should die beautifully like falling sakura", encouraging people to commit to their country during war, even if it means losing their lives. If it really is true that under every cherry tree there is a dead human body, this would be easily true, when thinking of all the people who died in war. There are so very many sakura trees in Japan alone.
Now that Japan is in verge of changing the pacifistic constitution, perhaps those who have power to decide should look up, and see the falling sakura. And feel the fleetingness of human life.
(Editor's note: This month will bring two Top Stories.)