Archive for March 21, 2007

During Spring, Beer and Blossoms Go Hand-in-Hand

As the old Buddhist adage goes, life is impermanent… so enjoy it while it lasts.
Cherry blossoms are the same way. One day they powder the sky pink, the next day they’re the mud-tracked victims of gravitational pull.

So as springtime approaches, millions of Japanese will descend upon their local parks to view the sakura trees in full bloom― a cherished tradition called hanami. Though with limited seating, it becomes a team competition to secure the best spot.
For company outings, my boss would send off the wide-eyed newbie to sit in the middle of the park until everyone finished work. The office ladies then go to buy food, and once the entire staff has gathered, we form a big circle and make a jubilant toast to warmer weather. “Spring time has come. Kampai~!” (ç “Cheers!”)
With a bento box dinner in one hand and a beer in the other, we sit for hours among good company, exchanging staff gossip or teaching each other drinking games. And as each hour goes by, our cheeks turn a brighter shade of red as we allow our less serious selves to emerge.
Right about then, I excuse myself and try joining surrounding parties in my attempt to make new friends. Northern Japanese people are pretty shy but once you introduce yourself as an American the questions start coming: “Do you eat hamburgers every day?” … “Have you ever seen Brad Pitt?” … “Why do Americans smell like cheese?”

At the peak of the evening, the park is roaring with noise and laughter. Guys and girls are exchanging numbers. Couples are exchanging kisses (though very discreetly). Trash cans are overflowing, and kids are doing the pee-pee dance around mom. Somehow, sitting under the sakura has made us giddy.
But as the air turns chilly, a strong breeze knocks off a few blossoms from a low-hanging branch. “That’s two down, 500,000 to go,” I think to myself as people start gathering their belongings. By midnight, nearly everyone is gone.
Sad as it is for the party to end, it’s always comforting to know that the blossoms will at least stick around for another week or two. So what you do is make the most of it. Paint lots of pictures. Write lots of poems.
Both life and blossoms are fleeting, so while they’re still around crack open a beer and savor every last drop. (^_^)/

March 21, 2007 at 3:23 pm 3 comments

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March 2007


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