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The Beauty of Impermanence

April 18, 2012

Today, I’d like to write about the concept 物の哀れ (mono no aware). It’s a Japanese word that packs an entire concept into just a few syllables, and just so happens to be one of my favorite words in the Japanese language. It literally means, “the pathos of things,” and is used to describe the transience of things and the gentle sadness you feel at their passing. It’s an amazing idea, and explains why the Japanese find the autumn and the spring so beautiful. What? Autumn makes sense — what with the falling leaves and all — but why the spring, you ask? Well, it’s because of the flowering tree that Japan is famous for– the 桜 (sakura), or cherry blossoms.

So, to kick off the weekend of April 7th, Jess and I did 桃まつり (momo matsuri) Part Two, this time with some guests in tow. Jess’s Japanese mother away from home visited with her husband, as did Becky, the girl she roomed with at training. It was so great to meet them, and we now have a standing invitation to visit Jess’s parents-away-from-home in Yokohama whenever we choose. Jess and I had a blast showing them around the park, especially since the peach blossoms were in full bloom!

Check it out! Isn't it beautiful?

Here's a general idea of what the park looked like this time.

It was absolutely amazing to just wander around the park and see all of the budded trees we saw last week in full bloom. And the colors were so beautiful! The most common trees were the pink ones such as the ones pictured above, but then every once in a while we came across a red tree like this one:

I have a difficult time choosing a favorite. They're both so beautiful.

And the peach blossoms weren’t the only ones that were blooming! We saw 桜 (sakura) as well. However, I’ll get to that in a bit.

We enjoyed sitting down on a bench for a brief spell to sit and eat some peach-shaped dumplings that we purchased and then began planning our next move. After getting our fill of the blooms we loaded up in Jess’s car and hopped on down the road to a restaurant by the name of Neneya, which is a family-style Japanese restaurant. We were shown to a semi-private room and given menus to order dishes that were meant to be shared with the group. I’m only a tiny bit ashamed when I say that I got really excited when I saw garlic toast on the menu and asked if it was okay to order it! It’s very authentic Japanese food, I know. I have a feeling that this is going to be a recurring theme every time I go to these sorts of restaurants — find a Western dish that I’ve been craving and then order it! And yes, the garlic toast was delicious.

Once we ate lunch (as well as dessert — I had frozen chocolate mousse! No surprise there) we dropped Jess’s parents-away-from-home off at the train station, and zipped on over to my apartment so I could grab my futon and load it into the car. On a spur-of-the-moment decision, Becky, Jess, and I decided that it would be loads of fun to have a sleepover since we were already planning on meeting at the train station, going into Tokyo early the next day to Yoyogi Park, and participate in 花見 (hanami), literally meaning, “flower viewing.” So, we made things a little easier by having a sleepover! It was loads of fun, and we woke up bright and early at 6 AM to catch our 7:00 train into Tokyo. We rode the train for an hour or so, and had a bit of a walk to the park, but we finally arrived at around 9:00 AM.

The first thing that caught my eye were the cherry blossoms. They were a spectacular sight to behold, with a canopy of white as far as the eye could see. Then the next thing I noticed was how crowded the park already was! The park opens at 5:00 a.m. so there had to be some people who got there right at the beginning in order to snag spots. We passed people snoozing right and left in search of a place to sit down. We had to wade through quite the sea of gigantic blue tarps before finding a fairly open spot to spread our small plastic tablecloth we got the day before at the 100 yen store. Once we had our spot, though, we whipped out our cameras and got to taking pictures.

Becky on our way to the prime flower viewing area.

The colors were perfect for an Easter away from home. What an awesome way to spend the holiday!

Looking up.

One last photo. This is one of my favorites from the day.

As time went on, some of our fellow ALTs joined us and the park slowly got more and more crowded. It was so full that by the afternoon cell phone service in the area went down because there were so many people trying to use their phones at the same time. Even scarier, the lines for the bathroom had a forty-five minute wait, according to a brave member of our group!

Anyway, the premise of hanami is quite simple: set up a tarp under a cherry tree with your friends, break open the alcohol, and drink under the blooms while admiring their beauty. In Japan, the cherry blossoms are considered so beautiful because they bloom only once a year and last for about a week at most before losing all of the flowers. This is all part of 物の哀れ (mono no aware): celebrating the coming of the cherry blossoms (and spring) but also acknowledging the fact that they won’t last for very long.  So, 花見 (hanami) is a proper send off of sorts, if you will. It’s taking the time to appreciate the things in life that you know won’t stay around forever — including kegs upon kegs of Japanese beer. Oh man, do they put it away!

We left the party a bit early to hop into Shibuya to get a little shopping done. In true American fashion, we made sure to hit up H&M as well as Forever 21 in search of clothing for work and for outside of work. I managed to find some pretty nice articles of clothing for a decent price, which was icing on the cake for me. The whole day was an awesome way to spend Easter! Jess and I hopped on the train back to Koga-shi and went home to get ready for our first day of school. After an awesome weekend like that, I was very excited to start teaching! Of course, you already know that, if you read my previous post!

Stay tuned for another post!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Jess permalink
    April 21, 2012 10:50 PM

    LOVE the last photo! You take such fantastic photos Care!

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