Beau and I traveled to Japan last week!
I had always wanted to go. Every glimmer of culture that floated over to me from the east intrigued me. It seemed so mysterious, mystical, and beautiful. We hoped against hope that the cherry blossoms would be blooming while we were there, a too-short season of about one week that many people miss or arrive too early for.
We made it at just the right time!
Oh the cherry blossoms! Green ones with pink stripes,
big lavender puff balls almost as big as my palm,
pink as brilliant as a sunset, or light as cotton candy,
long sticks covered in white pom poms,
and weeping branches that looked like a waterfall of flowers.
every tree brought gasps and paparazzi and Sakura fever.
The Japanese people are crazy about their cherry blossoms. Called Sakura there, they have a whole festival called Hanami dedicated to it. Picnic spots are reserved early in the day under the pink clouds, lanterns strung, and confections of all sorts are made in cherry blossom flavor.
I LOVED it. You know me and pink!
The other favorite thing, which I had no idea about until I was there, is matcha. Matcha, matcha, matcha! Replace Seattle’s love for coffee and chocolate with this green tea and you would come close to the adoration the Japanese have for Matcha. Everywhere we went there were three options for ice cream: Sakura, Vanilla, and Matcha! The Sakura Dango, or mochi on a stick, is in green, pink and white colors.
And so much of the decor for shops and winding streets is themed in these colors. It was magic I wasn’t even expecting!
While in Tokyo we went to the Shinjuku Garden and saw hundreds of cherry trees, some past their prime, some just opening, some so full of glorious fluffy beauty you could barely push past the crowd to see them! We luckily went early and got our fill of solitude before the hoards of Hanami picnickers made their way in. Little ponds full of petals, paths lined with iris meadows, and darling tea houses were waiting for us.
In Kyoto we stayed in a little traditional flat on a river. I could open wide our two double glass doors out onto a view of a dark pink double cherry tree weeping over the water. There was a yellow pagoda style building behind it. We could lay on our pink futons and tatami mats drinking tea just watching the world float by. It was heaven.
On one of our days we decided to take the train into the countryside to see wild cherry blossoms. Yoshino is a little town dappled along a narrow ridge. We took a gondola up to the the base of the ridge and hiked to the top. There were groves of cherry trees all around us and the wind was full of sweet smelling petals. There were what seemed like thousands of steps, but there was always astounding beauty all around, even on the steps!
We would pop into shrines to see the simple beauty of zen gardens, simple stone statues, strung origami cranes, lanterns, and sacred springs.
The peak held for us a few others who had taken the same pilgrimage from different parts of Japan. We were suddenly friends the way all hikers who have scaled a mountain suddenly become.
(at the top!)
I looked out over the cherry tree canopy in awe, washed my hands in the spring at the top of the mountain, and asked God to show himself to me. I little bird flitted above me and landed in a rafter of the shrine. I think God does show himself to us constantly in the beauty of nature. But sometimes it takes a long journey, a fasting of familiarity, and the possibilities of other magic worlds to remember him. The Sakura did that for me.