Spring Comes to Japan

Just over a month has passed since the devastating earthquake and tsunami that pulverized and washed away small villages in Northeast Japan, a freak natural disaster that the Japanese government has officially named the “Higashi-Nihon Dai-Shinsai,” or “Great Eastern Japan Earthquake.”

News sources, both domestic and international, have spotlighted the plight of the refugees who have lost their homes. Over ten thousand people have been killed, and an even greater number remain missing. Many towns are still without electricity and aftershocks coupled with the unstable condition at the Fukushima Nuclear Reactor facility have caused even more headaches to the Japanese people.

Yet despite the crisis, people in the Tokyo region were still able to muster the vitality to welcome the arrival of spring. Last week the cherry blossoms within the metropolitan region were in full bloom, and many pedestrians were seen stopping to take a picture of the trees, a scenic yet evanescent event that Japanese look forward to all-year.

At Yoyogi Park, one of the largest parks in Tokyo, thousands of people gathered for the “hanami” or “flowering viewing,” a traditional Japanese custom of watching the fragile, idyllic, and scenic beauty of the cherry blossoms—beautiful pink flowers that fall relentingly with the subtlest wind.

Yoyogi Park was abuzz with the youthful vitality of people eager to enjoy life, something that few Japanese have been able to do since the tragic events that have been continuing since “3/11.” At a lake in Yoyogi Park, one couple began to dance together, almost instantly sparking a social movement. Other couples began to join the fun, and soon enough even shy couples began to dance together, hands held.

People smiled.

To add to the troupe, performers were seen in the afternoon, with comedians and musicians entertaining passersby. One talented group of musicians playing African drums lured a big audience, while cosplayers got nearby people to quickly brandish their cameras to take pictures. Elderly couples walked together silently, gathering their surroundings as if they were relishing the serenity of the cherry blossoms and the energy of the youth.

Amidst all of the eclectic shows, eccentric acts, and ethnic groups of every age and nationality, perhaps most noticeable was the raucous cheer of young people sitting down on mats, chatting, laughing, and drinking merrily.

How long has it been since people in Japan were seen smiling?
For one, fleeting moment, Japan enjoys a moment of tranquility.

//By Ryo TAKAHASHI

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