Monday, April 09, 2007

The blossoms are coming!

I never cease to be amazed by the contrast in technological advances and lack there of in this country. We had to pay to have a separate gas hot water heater installed in our kitchen as only dish soap gelling, frigid water comes forth from the taps. On the other hand there is an entire division at the Japan Meteorological Agency that tracks the “sakura front” (桜前線, sakurazensen) as it makes its way north to the very tip of this cherry blossom crazed country! They even publish and regularly update a webpage that plots the progress of the advancing pinky goodness!

I must admit we’ve really come to look forward to the arrival of the cherry blossoms. They are the true sign that spring is here to stay. We’ve even planned 2 days and nights of our spring road trip to coincide with the blooming of 1600 sakura trees in Goryoukaku Park in Hakodate. We’ve never been there before and we’re really looking forward to exploring this beautiful city as the warm spring breeze swirls the delicate petal around us. We plan to partake in some “flower viewing” (花見, hanami) which is taken very seriously amongst avid cherry blossom fans. Apart from going for a nice steamy onsen, hanami is one of the most relaxing activities I’ve encountered in this country. You pack yourself a picnic or pick up your favorite bento, some beverages, a blanket and of course the one accessory that shows you really know what your doing…a blue tarp! Then you head out to your favorite cluster of flowering trees, set up underneath them, sit back, enjoy the flowers, the food and the company of other hanami enthusiasts. It’s really amazing to see all the stuff folks will tote along to their chosen site. You’ll see carts that are loaded up with BBQ’s, tripods, spotting scopes, folding chairs, obscene amounts of skewered meats for the grill, blankets, liters of bottle tea, mochi, video cameras, kids toys you name it. If it will prolong the hanami experience it goes along!

This time of year will always be very special to me. When I went in to labor for Keenan almost a year ago the blossoms had yet to open in Obihiro. Keenan was born at 12:14 in the afternoon on a Thursday and that Saturday I noticed the first blossoms opening from a window in the hospital down the hall from our room. There is also a sakura tree just outside the window of the maternity floor lounge and it burst into bloom that same day. On Sunday (my first Mother’s Day as a mother) I awoke to the unforgettably striking sight of snow falling on the blossoms. It was truly breathtaking. The whole 7 days we were in the hospital trees all along the building were in various stages of bloom. It felt wonderful to me as we had planned to name our baby Hanako(“hana” means flowers and “ko” means child) if she was a girl. Instead we had a beautiful baby boy in the middle of a city in full bloom. Looking at the blossoms thru the hospital windows was one of the first things Keenan and I did together apart from the routine hospital stuff and I will always hold that memory close to my heart.

Eiko, if I have made any kanji mistakes please let me know! Yoroshiku!

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