In a slight departure from my usual semi photo journalism, I will write a bit and only put one photo at the end; all in the spirit of asymmetry.
I would like to move to, live in, discover, feel and just even vaguely explore the very outer edges of Japan; the people, country, culture, language, food, architecture, history and traditions all absolutely fascinate me, and to be honest have done for a long time.
I can’t quite explain why; it’s complex, something to do with the juxtaposition of ridiculously unlikely things (but unlike Romania) in a rather beautiful, thoughtful, polite, slightly asymmetrical way, and for a person that is usually pretty symmetrical, it’s an unusual passion.
The singular event that completely sent me into overdrive from major enthusiast to groupie, started with spring, in Tokyo.
The cherry blossom is without a doubt one of the most magical things I’ve ever seen.
I’ve never been into pink; I hated it so much age 5 I refused to go to ballet unless I could wear a black leotard, I went once, in black of course, scowled at the others in pink, and my mum most sagely switched me to gymnastics and swimming…
Just setting the unlikely scene back in Japan, where I became a cherry blossom pink nut; anywhere that can do that to me is captivating. I can’t really begin to give you the feeling I had standing under the very first fluffy tree to perfectly fully bloom in Ueno gardens, with over one hundred little birds, all as excited as us diving in and out of the blossoms, highlighted against a pure winter blue sky; unforgettable.
As I’ve mentioned before, I am unbelievably lucky and privileged to have traveled extensively, yet Japan draws me in like no other…maybe it’s the 6 star toilets that sing..?
Or maybe it’s the group of Tokyo-ites who went to a village ruined by the Tsunami every weekend for a year, on a long overnight train, to sift through and clean and recover photos, that they then worked ceaselessly to place into albums, for survivors to look through and re-find and re-gain and re-discover and reclaim memories of their completely unfathomable loss? Can you imagine finding the only remaining photo of someone you’ve lost, can you appreciate what an unbelievable thing these volunteers did?
Cherry blossoms are transient, you can’t hold on to them for long, the tree I had my ‘moment’ under on Monday was beyond its peak on Friday, another part of the Japanese philosophy I cannot even begin to understand, my brutal translation being to appreciate the moment, carpe diem, plus a vague antithesis to ‘do not go gentle into that good night’, it made me think, it makes me think.
The graveyards in Tokyo are also blossoming, and the one we visited was full of cats, and what looked like giant lollyice sticks moving in the wind, it was peaceful, fresh flowers were everywhere, and reminded me that I must never leave my chopsticks sticking out of my rice or pass anything with them…rituals, tradition, complexities, food, fascinating.
It tells you something that one year on the tourism campaign says ‘Japan. Thank You,’…gentle, simple, thoughtful, completely selfless, I leave you with studio Ghibli to sum up.
I am in awe and I will return.