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Saturday, April 21, 2007


The cherry blossom in a court of its peers

Imagine a clearing in the forest, where several species of flowers are blooming.

A kisenka chrysanthemum
A kisenka chrysanthemum finds solace in front of a Buddhist shrine. AMY CHAVE PHOTO

A ray of sunlight shines through, spotlighting a yellow yamabuki mountain rose swaying ever so slightly in the breeze.

Not a cherry blossom tree is in sight, although laughter filters up the mountain from the shrine below where a raucous cherry-blossom-viewing party is proceeding.

The yamabuki is shaking her head. "We were the harbingers of spring," she reminisces. "There was a time, before the commercialization of the cherry trees and the transplants installed at shrines, temples, schools and parks, when the yamabuki was revered as the sign of spring.

"Evidence of the yamabuki is recorded in literature as far back as the 11th century in the Tale of Genji.

"Now we are all but forgotten as the cherry blossoms have become the media darlings, gracing the front page of every newspaper in the county.

"We are being deprived of our livelihood as the cherry blossoms hijack our media attention."

"Therefore," she said raising her voice, "we the yamabuki, are taking the cherry blossom to court!"

"Sansei desu!" cried a chorus of tsutsuki wild flowers in agreement, their purple blooms blanketing the mountainside.

"The cherry blossoms have been stealing the show. We are the true wild flowers; our presence is recorded in the Tale of the Heike. Yet, we are not getting the photos nor the recognition required to keep up the awareness of wild flowers and to preserve our roots.

"With declining budgets for national parks, many of us will die out. Weeds will take over! We will not keep mum any longer. We would like compensation from the cherry blossom for 'mental anguish.' "

"There seems to be a deliberate effort on the part of the cherry blossoms to open earlier and earlier every year, to get a jumpstart on all the oohs and ahhs. Nature previously gave them a certain time-frame in which to bloom. This is breach of contract," said the marguerite.

"Pink is not the only color of spring!" cried the red, tufted yaguruma growing in a nearby vegetable garden.

"Those cutesy pink petals -- give me a break! Consider the art of ikebana. Now and then you need something spikey, tufty, something with some angles to it.

"In addition, those fraudulent little cherry blossoms are trying to steal the title of Japan's national flower, which rightfully belongs to the chrysanthemum.

"Now, now, said a gentle voice coming from an orange kisenka chrysanthemum gracing the front of a small Buddhist shrine. "As chrysanthemums we do not worry about this. There are plenty of chrysanthemum shows every year that put us at the center of attention."

"What about us tulips?" a faint voice came over the wind. The flowers all looked toward where the voice was coming from. A lone tulip was craning its stem from a pot on someone's porch. "Although we are a minority, we have long been the symbol of the new school year in Japan."

A sakura-so Japanese primrose spoke up. "As a distant cousin of the cherry blossom, I can say that its popularity is not entirely its fault. You pansies! I think you are selfish and jealous. After all, the cherry blossoms have, in their own right, become a symbol of Japan. And they are far sexier than any of the rest of us."

A small green urajiro fern cleared its throat. "This may not be my place to butt in, but us ferns have been around for 400 million years so we have seen a lot. I think you have all enjoyed your place in the sun at some point," said the fern. "The cherry blossoms are popular right now, the same way all of you were at one time. As time goes on, things will change and another flower will become the object of affection.

"Until then, you must all bloom on."

"Face it, we are all spring flowers," said the kisenka. "A country is made up by a whole of its flowers, not just one type."

"Yes, I suppose all of us make up a beautiful Japan," quivered the yamabuki.

The cherry-blossom-viewing party below was beginning to quiet down. The last of the revelers packed up their vinyl sheets and karaoke machines as the last of the cherry blossom petals fell to the ground . . . and were trampled underfoot.

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