Saturday, March 29, 2014

花見 // h a n a m i

There are times, living in Japan, when I am overcome with an overwhelming realization of my position in Japan. 
There are moments - walking down busy streets of Hiroshima, or watching the sunsets of Kaminoseki - when I am at a loss for words. 
I am caught breathless. 
Because I realize, yet again, that this IS real life. I AM living in Japan, and I DO have a ton of crazy, unimaginable adventures in this beautiful, exotic, foreign land. 
And I think, I couldn't have come up with a better season of life had I tried. 

I was struck again this Friday. 

We are in the middle of Cherry Blossom season, here in Iwakuni. The air is a pleasant 65 degrees, and the sunshine is warm. There are so many things hinting to the coming of spring - the different smells, the longer days, and the wildflowers e v e r y w h e r e. But perhaps the most telling sign of spring is the Sakura 桜  - or the Cherry Blossom.
All the rumors about the Sakura in Japan are true. They really are everywhere and the whole country really does stop during the week of blooming to sit and stare at the 
It's ancient tradition. 
And it's something I've come to love about Japan - the habit of simply enjoying nature's beauty for the sake of nothing more than to take it all in. 
In Japan, we call this spring time tradition, "Hanami" , which literally translates to "flower-viewing"
If you did not already know, Hanami is the Japanese tradition of cherry blossom viewing. People spread mats and blankets under the Sakura trees, bring trays and bentos full of food, and allow the Sake to flow freely...all in the name of Cherry Blossom Season. 

This Friday, I was invited to Hanami with one of my Japanese students for her birthday. 
So I hopped in my car, drove to a meadow near the ancient Kintai Bridge, and joined my sweet friends for lunch under the trees. 
It was absolutely lovely...and the perfect way to end my week. 
There was sushi and onigiri...there was ocha and edamame...and I brought chocolate chip cookies for desert. I had to represent my country's cuisine in one way or another;) 
We walked under the natural tunnel of Sakura, and we picked wildflowers.
They told me about the Japanese warblers that only come out during the spring time, and taught me about their unique, spring time song.  
We spoke in "Jenglish", and taught each other the nuances of our different languages and cultures. 
And the best part was - regardless of the language barrier and difference in culture - I felt like we had been the friends for years. 

Isn't it amazing how that happens? Isn't it amazing that regardless culture, upbringing, language, food differences, and distance, people still find a way to be human together. 
We find ways to laugh together, eat together, and simply enjoy time together. 
Indeed, I think sometimes those relationships are the best, because they highlight the unseen, unspoken parts of a friendship. 
And it's beautiful. 

So that's what I'm thankful for, this Sakura season. 
I am thankful for the cherry blossoms and the flowers. 
I'm thankful for the coming of Spring and the warm sun on my back. 
But this year, I'm especially thankful for the beautiful people I've met here. 
And I'm thankful that, even when I call another place home, I'll still have my Japanese family here to visit  in my little seaside town of Iwakuni. 

And that's the best feeling ever.


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