Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sakura Madness - さくら (sakura)

Like soft pink snowflakes the petals float through the air. Lifted by the wind and pushed along wherever the breeze wills. Up and down, around and around the cherry blossoms float. To me this is the essence of the cherry blossom. They bloom in the spring and for a few weeks they are everywhere. Eventually the breeze grabs the petals, pulling them from the flower. They float on the currents of air in unpredictable directions. I love to watch the petals float like a will-o-the-wisp around me. It is magical to be in the center of a pink petal vortex.

We sat and ate our lunch under the cherry trees in the Kyoto Imperial Palace Park one sunny Saturday afternoon. We planned on eating lunch in the park during hanami for about a year. Last year we went to view the cherry trees in the Maru Yama Park, which happens to be one of the most famous in the city. Seeing families and groups of people camped out for an entire weekend of picnicking fun was great, but it made us wonder if we would have trouble finding a spot to eat our lunch this year.

We stopped for lunch in a fancy new convenience store in Kyoto Station that we noticed for the first time. It was one of those double take moments where you have to look twice and wonder what else you do not pay attention to in life. Where there once was a wall, now there was a shiny new strip of stores including an upscale conbini. Jenny and I each bought a bento containing rice, a slice of broiled fish, pickled cucumber, and some other salads. Logan had a sandwich and some other various goodies. And there we sat under the tree with cherry blossoms falling all around us as we ate our lunch and drank from a big bottle of sake. Well Logan did not imbibe in the sake, but Jenny and I both took advantage of the opportunity to sip some rice wine while viewing the flowers. We ate lunch with surrounded by several other families who must have all been thinking the same thing we were.

We ate, laughed and had fun. After lunch it was time to go play in the playground. Logan was very excited to go and play in the sandbox. This was one of the first nice weekends after a cold wet winter. Logan and Jenny headed up to the play area while I cleaned up after our lunch. I joined them after a few minutes and found Logan happily digging away in the sand. After his time excavating in the sandbox he headed over to the swings to try his luck. He only had to wait a few minutes before one of the four swings became available for his use. He swung back and forth for quite some time. He did not ask to be pushed higher, but he did start to move his legs in the classic pumping action. He even managed to do it all by himself for a time.

After playing on the playground for a time we decided to stroll around the grounds of the park for a while. This was our opportunity to see all the different flowering trees in the park. Many of the trees were cherry trees that blossomed in varying shades of pink. There were others too. I am no flowering tree expert, but there were lots of beautiful trees that were covered in beautiful flowers. And we saw them all. We had a great time wandering through the park and admiring the flowers. Even occasionally giving them a sniff to see how they smell, for the record cherry blossoms do not have much of an odor. There was a small grove of non-cherry trees that did have a great perfume like smell. The odor grabbed us by the nose and pulled us in and we wandered through with our noses high in the air. It was really a lot of fun to spend time in the park and the best part was that it was not very crowded. We were able to cross another item off of our list of things to do: eat a picnic lunch while sitting under a flowering cherry tree.

Our day did not end at this point. Oh no, our day of cheery cherry madness continued on. We hopped on the subway and traveled to a different part of the city to see more of the quintessential Japanese flowering tree. The day would not be complete until we had used every waking minute searching out the best places to see the best trees. This time we were bound for an area we had visited once before. We had walked the street as we were looking for ramen on our ramen meguri. That day we happened upon the street quite by accident. This time we were planning on seeing the street lined with flowering trees. The walk was very pleasant, but crowded. There were people and trees throughout the area. We were walking near a small stream that wound it's way throughout the area. Much like on the Path of Philosophy we walked near the water as often as we could. We wandered and talked, strolled and laughed. It was fun to walk and admire all of the scenery around us. It was as we were admiring a particularly beautiful tree that the invitation came.

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