If you talk to people who have either been to Japan, or at least have a deep understanding of the culture, it seems that inevitably the cherry blossom (Sakura) season will come up.  The blossoms are an interesting part of the Japanese culture, and to be quite honest, I didn’t totally “get it” until I went there and experienced it myself.  The best way I can describe it for people that live in the south, is it’s a bit like our anticipation of snow during the winter (there are even cherry blossom forecasts and status reports to let everyone know where to go, and when).  And just like that first snow has a sort of magical feeling to it, so too do the cherry blossoms in Japan.  It was REALLY cool to see.

For the Japanese, the cherry blossoms represent the beauty of life, and its shortness.  It’s beauty and tragedy, all mixed together, and is a bit of a reminder to appreciate life, and all it has to offer.  Like many aspects of Japanese culture, there is a poetry to this that I found interesting, and frankly it is something I think our own culture could learn from.  As Americans, when we see something pretty we tend to have a “oh wow, look at that” moment, and then move on, and admittedly the first cherry tree I saw in Japan, this was my reaction.  But once you stand among the trees (which are everywhere, by the way), and listen to the reactions of all the people who have come to see them, you start to feel the magic of it also.  For me, it was a wonderful nudge to pause, and appreciate my surroundings.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that it was so gorgeous!

–Dan Thompson

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297 Shibokusa, Oshino-mura, Minamitsuru-gun, Yamanashi-ken 401-0511, Japan

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