I just remembered that it was exactly a year ago today when my husband and I finally got to go to Japan. The trip was amazing and it sealed our fascination for everything Japanese. Japan was more beautiful than I imagined especially with those fluffy, pink clouds of cherry blossoms in parks, gardens, temples, street corners, riversides, and bridges.
Appreciating the blossoms’ delicate beauty and short life span, the Japanese take the time to celebrate its arrival with viewing parties (hanami). The flower also figures in Japanese poetry and literature, seen as a metaphor for life–it’s beautiful, it’s fleeting, it has to be celebrated, and it ends. Sometimes all too soon.
After the earthquake and the tsunami that hit Japan more than two weeks ago, the devastating images of the tragedy have been replaced with stories of the survivors. Many of those interviewed have lost someone. A parent, a spouse, a sibling, a relative, a friend, a child. One mother who lost one of her sons tells a CNN reporter, “No matter what’s happened to him, I just want him back. My child should come home to me. I need to find him.” She still smiles and laughs around her other son who is playing a game of pretend next to her. It’s beyond heartbreaking. Then there is the husband looking for his wife in evacuation centers and a neighbor tells him ganbatte kudasai (which can mean tough it out, persevere, and goodluck). They bow at each other.
There are many other stories that illustrate Japan’s strength and civility in the face of this recent tragedy and loss. There’s no reported looting. Everyone falls in line. There’s no doubt that the Japanese will rebuild what was devastated. They’ve done it before. It is in their culture.
Of course, we can all help in rebuilding. CNN has a good roster of legitimate groups that can help. For those in the Philippines, it’s easy donate to the local Red Cross simply through SMS, text RED and the amount you want to donate 10, 25, 100, 500, or 1000.
It’s that time of the year. The cherry blossoms are starting to bloom again. Once more, many parts of Japan will be covered in beautiful light pink canopies. As much as it seen as a symbol for the fleeting nature of life, it also marks beginnings. I hope and pray with the rest of the world for the people who have lost so much to be able to rebuild their lives, to start over, and find joy again. Ganbatte kudasai.
A cherry blossom tree just outside a house along the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto