この記事は、岡山県北タウン情報誌「JAKEN」に掲載されました。ニック先生の日本での初めてのお花見に関する興味深い体験を 是非原文で読んでみて下さい。 この記事の翻訳は「JAKEN」４月号の「ふしぎの國ジパング」のコーナーで紹介されました。
I’m lucky to have celebrated almost twenty O-Hanami seasons in Japan, and every one of them holds special memories for me. The one that stands out for me is my first. Nothing I know of in my home country can compare to what is celebrated here in spring every year.
I landed in Japan in the middle of winter, a radical climate change for me coming from a boiling summer down under. Japan, and the Japanese, seemed to be only bleak in that time; gray chilly skies and gray chilly stares are the earliest memories for me of my life in Japan. Other people kept telling me to wait until spring and I’d see a completely different side to the Japanese when the cherry trees blossomed, but I couldn’t understand how any flowers blooming in spring could be so special. “They’re just flowers,” I thought. “How can they change such a gloomy demeanor?” Then came spring and a new awareness for me.
What a change! It was like I was visiting another country, another culture! The largest park in the area was well known for its cherry blossoms and was the first place I headed on my one day off. My first insight into this ‘different’ Japan came when I had to stand in line to get into the park, as everyone in Japan seemed to be wanting to get into the park at the same time. The anticipation in that line was as though we were waiting for a rock performer to start a sold-out concert. “All for flowers” I thought. “How aesthetic the Japanese must be.”
Eventually I got in and as I wandered slowly under the pink canopy of flowers, I saw what the fuss was all about. Beneath the innumerable trees, covered with countless pink blossoms was the happiest bunch of revelers I think I have ever seen. There were at least four parties under every tree, then like circles centered on each of those trees were rings of other groups spread out to fill every available open space, leaving nothing but the narrowest of paths to negotiate your way.
Looking up at the blossoms, I had the same feeling of childish wonder I had just a few weeks before when I saw snow falling for the first time in my life. Then, like a stupid kid, I held up a very crowded sidewalk trying to catch snowflakes on my tongue. I wasn’t quite silly enough to try and catch any petals in my mouth but stood mesmerized by the delicate beauty of the blossoms that had unleashed the joyous spirit in the party goers around me.
Australia is well known for its parties, outdoors and indoors, and I’ve been to too many crazy shows back home, more raucous than any cherry blossom party I’ve ever been to. What impressed me most in that Japanese park that day was the drunken civility I was witnessing, groups of all ages, social backgrounds and fashionable cliques sharing the same space and the same bliss that the season had aroused. Spike-haired punks shared tree space with middle-aged men with Mercedes-Benz key rings dangling from their pockets, Louis-Vuitton toting glamour girls sharing drinks with laborers still in their split-toed work boots. It was hard to imagine such friendliness among such different groups back home in Oz.
It wasn’t long before I came a part of the festivities as people invited me to sit and share their plastic mats, their food and drink. No common language between us other than imprecise gestures, cultural barriers seemed to disappear over bento boxes and cans of lager beer. I was overwhelmed! One group with a portable karaoke machine (a portable karaoke machine!) taught me my first words of ‘Sakura, Sakura’. Another group, thinking I was a traveling photographer, had me take their photo and insisted on paying for it, money I couldn’t refuse, no matter how many times I tried. And yet another group invited me in and became my best friends for years. I couldn’t have imagined such a day even just the night before. My first taste of nihonshuu and shotchuu, my first bento box, my first Japanese friends, my first karaoke performance, my first O-Hanami! I was hooked.
I headed back to the same slightly less crowded park the following Sunday to witness the clouds of petals as they fell and scattered and had my first understanding of the symbolism the cherry blossoms hold for the Japanese. For the first time, and every year since, I tried to imagine if it were possible to calculate the number of cherry petals that fell from every tree in Japan each spring, and if they could be gathered in one place, how much they would all weigh. An impossible thought to hold, but somehow, almost, an achievable one when sharing O-Hanami with friends.