Monday, April 13, 2015

American hanami

So, as you may know, Japanese people have this annual tradition called hanami (or yozakura, if you do it at night). Here's how it works: in springtime, people pack up a bento of traditional foods (and, if they drink, sake) and find a flowering cherry tree under which to sit and admire the blossoms, eat, drink, play and listen to music. The blossoms, which only last a few days before withering and falling from the trees, are symbolic of both the beauty and the fleeting nature of life.

My question: why don't we have something like this in America?

It's not as though we don't have any cherry trees here. Right now in the Puget Sound area there are gobs of flowering cherries everywhere. (The picture above was taken in a strip mall parking lot in Bellevue.) Yes, it rains in springtime, but it likewise rains in Japan during the hanami season. And American foodies hardly need another excuse to come up with a seasonal picnic. Maybe it's the reminder of mortality, of the briefness of life, that gives us pause? Americans don't much care to contemplate death, especially their own. And yet I see hanami parties as a celebration of life and all the facets of life, of beauty and pain, tension and calm, joy and sorrow, of taking delight in the time we have on earth. Why wouldn't we want to celebrate that?

Besides, it's a chance to sit under a tree, play a guitar, sing and feast with friends. Even if you're not much for contemplation, I bet you're still up for a celebration -- especially one involving food.

Friends, I say we find a likely spot and make this happen! Who's with me?

No comments: