The meaning of Sakura

I had the great pleasure – and privilege – of being in Japan last week. As the Noizumi Super-Express whizzed from Kyoto to Tokyo, I put away the laptop and spent a couple of hours watching out for little plumes of spring all across the land. Vibrant white and pink bursts contrast the green of fields and the grey of urbanization, the cherry trees or “sakura” are blossoming.

It is so lovely.

Looking beautiful, Tokyo... how nature makes a humdrum building look spectacular!

Looking beautiful, Tokyo… how nature makes a humdrum building look spectacular!

On Saturday, all around Tokyo, I saw people gathering under the sakura, friends, food spread out on tarpaulins, drinking. Pink petals drifting like snowflakes onto Tokyo’s canals, giving a rare living hue to the filth that normally drifts out to the ocean. Elderly women drinking tea and gossiping on wooden benches next to the imperial palace, glancing with joy at the first blossoms on otherwise bare branches.

There is an irony that the people who live in some of the most dense and congested communities on earth have such a strong connection with nature. But it is a worthy tradition. It reminds us that life has periods of renewal, that change is to be celebrated, and that new beauty is always waiting – not so far away, or in the distant future – to gently drift back into our life.

For me, it was a reminder that soon I must also have a spring time. It has been a long and dark winter.