Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hanami by night

Spring has come, as evidenced by the turtles and the frogs, and so it is also time to engage in the essential festival of Hanami. Hanami is, of course, the festival of viewing the cherry blossoms, which come out at this time of year for about 2 weeks, blooming rapidly from green shoots to boughs overburdened with the faint-smelling blossoms. By the end of the first week of their bloom, the trees look as if they have been once more burdened with the snow which has become just a distant memory, and then the snow again seems to be falling as the cherry blossoms fall in great drifts with the wind. These blossoms are pink, but so pale in colour as to be almost white, and each petal is pierced in the centre with veins of red or green. The streets and rivers are lined with these trees, so that when one rides to work or university one can sail through a vaulted promenade of blossoms.

Last year I did hanami by night in Tottori, and this year too the Delightful Miss E and I decided to do a little night-time Hanami trip, this time to "1000 hands temple" (Gesshuji), where there is a famous weeping cherry blossom tree. The temple itself is on a hill, approached by a narrow winding road lined with vending machines, cherry trees, and then the water trough depicted above. From the top of the hill one can see all the way to the castle (not actually very far) which is lit up strongly at night during hanami season because of its extensive blossom trees.

While at this little temple we also saw an Owl, and many lovers who arrived in pairs and sidled away when they discovered us wandering about taking photos. Typically in Japan, where it is acceptable to drink beer and eat in temple grounds, it is to be expected that lovers would venture up to lonely temples. Us included, I suppose. This was the 2nd of our Hanami expeditions, the other being to the castle during the day. This had to be done early due to the NOVA work schedules, and was not so much fun. Fortunately this is the season of change, when the essential impermanence of life is writ large; at this time of year people move house, change schools and change jobs. In the spirit of things, the Delightful Miss E started working at the University and ditched her NOVA job. So we will never again be shackled to 5pm starts and late night dinners. And now her workplace is lined with blossom trees, whose shedding petals can be enjoyed in the early evening cool. Who said impermanence is bad?


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