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Sunday, April 10, 2011
To 'hanami' or not hanami
As the annual hanami season arrives in the Japanese archipelago, cherry-blossom lovers are wondering whether they should go out and enjoy them. After the devastation of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku-Pacific region, many have suggested that this year's hanami parties should be prohibited.
Now more than ever, hanami can offer strength, insight and comfort to a nation grieving over its worst tragedy since World War II. Hanami is one of the symbols at the heart of Japanese culture. The annual spring rite has always helped to throw off the winter blues and let people get away from their stifling routines.
The national mood is far too subdued for this year's celebrations to be anything like the raucous eruptions of year's past anyway. The sorrow and anguish people feel will not vanish just by looking at pretty blossoms. Still, engaging with others in meaningful customs does offer consolation and a break in the mourning.
This year's hanami parties might be a good time to reconsider the brevity of life, a topic already on people's minds. After the blows people have taken from earth and ocean, it will be difficult to again appreciate nature's beauty, but meditating on the blossoms can help to differentiate between nature's fierce power and the unwise mistakes of humans. People will have to somehow acknowledge the inevitability of earthquakes and tsunami, but they do not need to accept the misinformation and grave blunders of the nuclear industry.
Staying cloistered at home instead of sitting in local parks or strolling along cherry tree-lined canals helps no one. The disruption from the disaster will continue for some time, but returning to some semblance of normal life helps society stabilize and move forward.
Hanami has always been a reset button for people's mental attitude and emotional outlook. Now, it can serve as another step toward finding the inner strength and positive attitude needed for Japan's recovery. Meditating on the brevity of life and reassessing the beauty of each passing moment is not such a bad offering for those who have no way to see the blossoms this year.