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Saturday, April 4, 2009
Cherry blossoms are for lovers
By AMY CHAVEZ
Japan is on the highest level of alert now — Code Pink. I'm referring to the cherry blossom alert, of course as the blushing blossoms carpet Japan with pink all the way up the archipelago from Kyushu to Hokkaido. Full Pink Alert is when the cherry blossoms are mankai — in full bloom.
The cherry blossom report is broadcast on the nightly news alongside the weather report featuring bobbing cartoon T-shirts on clotheslines that indicate the "laundry forecast." If it's going to be a thoroughly dry and sunny day, there will be bobbing towels on the line. Other days there are only socks bobbing on the line. Perhaps that means you'll have a smelly day.
Such is nature so thoroughly reported in Japan.
So it should be no surprise that the cherry blossom reports in Japan are extremely accurate. When it was reported that here in Okayama Prefecture the blossoms would burst forth from their buds on March 23, two days earlier than the year before, they did.
Nor should it be any surprise that cherry blossoms come and go Japanese-style — in a very orderly fashion. Those of us in Okayama, for example, must wait for the cherry blossoms to first bloom in Kyushu and slowly make their way northeast up the archipelago till they reach us, then move on to Tokyo and finally Hokkaido. The people in Hokkaido must be tickled pink when the blossoms finally arrive there in May.
During cherry blossom season in Japan, everything turns into a pink panic as people scramble to find a vacant tree to sit under and enjoy viewing the blossoms while drinking sake and beer. This ritual is called O-hanami.
All kinds of pink products and "cherry blossom-flavored" snacks and drinks are on the store shelves to lure you into the spirit of pink. Should you be even mildly offended by the color pink, I suggest you leave the country for this period of time.
Even the shopping streets are decorated with fake cherry blossom branches made of pink plastic. I'm pretty sure this is a convenience thing, to provide cherry-blossom viewing to busy, time-starved people.
The same is true for the real cherry trees that are conspicuously planted alongside roads, so that those driving to and from work and who have little, if any, free time can still get a little bit of O-hanami in. Like fast food, we now have drive-through, cherry-blossom viewing.
It can be difficult to know what qualifies as O-hanami in Japan. In a country where temporary construction sites have fake pots of flowers "growing" around them, and coin lockers at train stations feature scenery from the Swiss countryside, where does one draw the line for O-hanami?
How about looking at a postcard of cherry blossoms, for example? Certainly looking at old photo albums of cherry blossom parties would qualify as O-hanami.
What Japan needs is a National Cherry Blossom Day so everyone gets a proper day off to view the blossoms. After all, there is Greenery Day, so why not Pinkery Day? And the cherry blossoms, already a national symbol of Japan, deserve a holiday named after them.
Not only should Cherry Blossom Day be a national holiday, but I propose that it replace Valentines Day.
C'mon, admit it, Valentine's Day has been a huge failure to the people in Japan. While it is supposed to be a holiday for lovers, instead, it is a self-serving holiday for male chocolate fanatics who refuse to share their chocolate when White Day comes around on March 15, the day they are supposed to reciprocate.
So why not combine the two days, and their colors (red and white) and make it a pink day? Japan could have a second chance at love with Cherry Blossom Day. The campaign slogan could be "Cherry blossoms are for lovers."
With June being the busiest month for weddings in Japan, Cherry Blossom Day could be a runnerup for couples hoping to tie the knot.
With a prenuptial wedding trip abroad to see the cherry blossom festival in Washington D.C., for example, couples could decide then whether they are compatible or not rather than after the honeymoon which sometimes results in a "Narita Divorce." With the cherry blossom campaign, the Narita Divorce would be replaced by the Narita tour de force.
And then love would surely blossom.