Wednesday, April 3, 2013

kintai, more sakura, and the third culture

Sakura Season has come to Yamaguchi. 
Cherry Blossoms have shown their little white and pink heads on most the trees around our little town. Trees that I looked at 2 weeks ago and thought nothing of, I now look at and am in awe of the beautiful cottony blooms that fill the branches. The trees are can't avoid them.

And in traditional Japanese fashion, a festival has been made out of this Sakura Season. The beautiful Kintai-kyo with the Sakura that seem to parade around it has attracted visitors from all over Japan. Little food stands have set up shop along the Nishiki river which is set aglow at nighttime by the lanterns that seem to hang from every tree. Families picnic under the cherry blossom trees and simply enjoy each other and spring time.
It's a celebration. 
A celebration of spring, of new beginnings, of food, and of the beautiful Sakura. 

We decided to avoid the crowds and go at nighttime toward the end of the festival. I was kind of hesitant to be honest, because I had only seen beautiful pictures of the Kintai and of the Sakura in bright daylight with the sun streaming behind the branches. However, I came to find that the Sakura take on a completely different light at night. They're enchanting...
and extremely hard to photograph in the dark, in case you were wondering;)

As I was walking around the park, I couldn't help but think about this experience as a whole. The Sakura Season just reminds me again of how thankful I am to live in Japan. I won't ever forget these memories that I have accumulated on this eastern side of the world. They're different, and exotic, and completely opposite of the way things are at home. 
This got me to thinking about how much this foreign land has become home. Living in Japan has not only made me appreciate where I came from, but it has also taught me that I can call several places my home. And while one place may be lacking in family and friends, and the other in adventure and diversity, I have come to appreciate and love aspects of every place I go. 
But then that got me thinking even more. When I go back home, I'm not sure I can fit in quite like I did before. I have accumulated memories, and cultural experiences, scars and trials that have carved their permanent mark upon my life. I won't ever be able to erase who I've become over this season. But really, I'm not completely part of the culture here in Japan either. I haven't lived here my whole life, I grew up in a completely different culture, and have an accent that Japanese people get a kick out of. My past and childhood has also left marks upon my life that cannot be erased. 
So you see, last night I began to think that I'm really apart of this group of people that you could call the "Third Culture" (formally known as Ex-Pats). We don't slide perfectly into place in our home country, and we are not natives of the country in which we reside. It's quite funny actually, and a bit odd. But last night, as I was standing on the Kintai and watching the people on the shore eat their quiet dinners under the lanterns, I couldn't help but be utterly grateful that I don't quite fit in.
Home has become a place with many definitions, and my home country is a place that I have come to appreciate now more than ever. But I know that I won't ever be able to stay one place for long...I never have.  
So I savor the extraordinary normal moments like these, and try to photograph them in my mind. 
I'm only a traveler on this journey, after all. And before I know it, I'll be savoring spring time in some other location around the world. 

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