Hanami and the Dangerous Art of Fish-petting

Every year in Japan, around the end of March, a funny thing happens that changes the mentality of the Japanese people. The transformation is catalyzed by the blossoming of cherry trees all over the country, a nationwide facelift of pinkish-white. The entire process of bud to blossom to fallen blossom takes only 2 weeks, and is monitored closely by the press and the public. During this 2-week period, the usually work-minded Japanese enjoy “Hana-mi” (“flower-watch”), spending their days and nights in the parks, eating and drinking on tarps on the ground as the bundles of blossoms slowly release their petals to create a gentle fragrant snowfall. Stands are set up selling various foods and drinks, some as obscure as boiled whole squid with BBQ sauce, fried pigs ears, and fish-shaped pancakes filled with fudge. Stages are set up with continual performances of dancing, drumming, and singing. Everyone is happy and friendly and consuming alcohol in public…aaaaah, what a great celebration. At any time, you can check online to find the Hanami stats for any specific park or region. For instance, on March 31, the blossoms were 60% full at Amagajo park. The blossoms peak at 80%, since the first have fallen by the time the last ones bloom, but 60% still looked pretty amazing to me.

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Amagajo park was the perfect spot to enjoy Hanami with Mayumi, Toshi, Gramma, and Hana. Surrounded by cherry trees with Amagajo castle peeking out above the blossoms, we ate to our heart’s content and drank beer and shochu until darkness finally came to hide the falling sakura.

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Unfortunately, our day of Hanami brought an abrupt end to my last week in Miyazaki, a week that was spent seeing the last of the local sites. This included one last bike trip to downtown and the Oyodo riverside, with it’s odd checkerboard grass.

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And one last visit to the koi pond, where I fearlessly risked life and limb to give my fishy friends a rather slimey but affectionate pet goodbye.

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And a trip to the last unvisited park in town, Tenjinyama, with it’s pond, tower and shrine.

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And the final trip to Ikime; one last chance to find the burial mounds. Unfortunately, Rusty was out for the day with a sore back, so I was forced to take the 1-speed. I made it all the way to the Ikime sports complex and the burial mounds on this bucket of bolts, only to find out that the “ancient” burial mounds were under construction …hey, wait a minute here…

Of course, at the furthest possible point from home, the 1-speed started whining and complaining and puncturing her rear tire, leaving me stranded 10 kilometres from home. My Rusty would never do that.

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And so, my time in Miyazaki draws to an end, with fond memories of cats, castles, people, pedals, and petals. Fortunately, I still have 4 days in Okinawa, but we’ll save those stories for next time. Let’s just say that Okinawans have their very own rendition of the Mexican “worm in a bottle”… but they’ve taken it a bit further. 

My day of Hanami was an experience that will be remembered forever, with it’s friends, foods, and drinks, and it’s peacefully hypnotic atmosphere. Many thanks to Mayumi, Toshi, Gramma, Hana, and Amagajo herself.

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~ by The Running Emu on April 8, 2007.

One Response to “Hanami and the Dangerous Art of Fish-petting”

  1. A bittersweet goodbye indeed. It sounds to me like you will be back though. I haven’t read such eloquence from you before that wasn’t about Tristan’s ass. In fact the skill of you photography echoes pictures I have seen of the later in years past. Your passion is evident, infectious, and beautiful.

    Thanks Simon, I will be back indeed…

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