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Springtime in Japan
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April and Cherry Blossoms

S P R I N G

Springtime, especially April, is the time for change in Japan. April means cherry blossoms, moving (changing residence), new jobs, a new fiscal year and a new school year. Most new company employees begin work in April. New television shows start in April. And of course, baseball season starts in April. Japanese dislike change but seem to accept it when it comes along with the Sakura (cherry blossoms). Sakura is so important that most weather forecasts on the nightly news also include the percentage of cherry blossoms that have bloomed in certain areas. The temperature is in the low- to mid- 60's and there are pink and white blossoms everywhere. It's one of the nicest times of the year here. Many Japanese wear surgical masks because they are allergic to all the pollen in the air. But generally it is a festive time with many parties and celebrations. You have to stake out your place in the park very early in the morning. The best spots are highly coveted. Some young recruits get assigned to hold places in parks for the company picnic. Large groups sit all weekend (day and night) under the cherry trees and imbibe huge quantities of alcohol and Japanese food and snacks. Revelers are seen during the week as well continuing parties for many days. Some people even die from overdrinking. (Unlike the US, Japan doesn't have any law against public consumption of alcohol or drunkenness). Still there is a pleasant feeling strolling through the jam packed parks. Even with all the drinking there never seems to be any fights or quarrels. Yesterday, Soyoko and I had a chance to ride our bicycles about 20 minutes to Inokashira Park in Musashinou City. It's one of my favorite parks with about 1000 cherry trees and a small lake. It was a nice day but a little chilly. Many people were enjoying the atmosphere of merrymaking, drinking, eating, dancing, and playing music, relaxing and people watching. I saw one guy who had outdid himself and was being carried to the bathroom after relieving himself all over his pants. One of the most interesting groups we saw was from Okinawa, many wearing traditional dress. It was an open party and they invited anyone to join for 1000 yen. Included in the price were Okinawan food and drink (awamori) or beer and a chance to sing along to Okinawan folk songs. I'm sure this party lasted long into Sunday night. We saw a semi-professional group playing ragtime (?) music and drawing a small crowd. We also saw many people playing instruments and singing to their own music. Next weekend, we plan to go again to do a little Hanami (flower viewing) because all too soon it will be over. Cherry blossoms only last for about 2 weeks and then they're gone until next year.