Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Cherry Blossom is in Full Bloom- Stunning photos of Japanese Sakura

Each year the sakura (cherry blossom) is celebrated in Japan, a tradition dating back thousands of years, signaling the beginning of spring, a time of renewal and optimism. Their short lived bloom, representative of the fleeting beauty of life.

cherry blossom in full bloom
Groups of people gather round the budding trees to eat, drink, and socialize with another, an occasion known as "hanami." In a culture where interaction is generally stilted, especially amongst those unfamiliar, the sakura acts as a bridge of engagement.
Yes, and when they are they are stunning

To stand in the midst of sakura; one's mind disappears into the gaps of thought as focus shifts to the delicate beauty around you. 
An electric feeling of awe might infuse your heart and spirit from this meditative experience. 
cherry trees in Kyoto with temples in the background
If you seek a moment's inspiration, might I suggest visiting Japan in early April- the season of the Sakura.
it's early spring, and other trees are barren- which makes the bright pink stand out
cherry blossoms at night lit up in Kyoto
Philosopher's path in Kyoto
colors which help counter the grey skies on Kyoto streets
the beauty of cherry blossoms up close
cherry trees on the river bank at the base of the mountains surrounding Kyoto

Video: cherry blossoms in Nara Park
beautiful girl under weeping cherry blossoms
The sakura has special significance for me as it is amidst them, the branches from the tree inches above our boat, that I asked this beautiful girl to marry me. The answer was yes. It's easy to get inspired.
Most canals in Kyoto have blooming cherry trees at the start of April
a cherry tree weeps over Japanese graves
a stellar tree in a Kyoto park
my pretty girl whom I love so much
brilliant colors of Japan in the early spring

a weeping cherry tree in full bloom over a rock garden
pink cotton candy under a blooming cherry

Also, check out the South Korean version of Sakura season at my friend Mike's blog. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Are Japanese the Most Polite People on Earth? Omotenashi is the Answer

Chidorigafuchi park/ Moat- cherry blossom season Tokyo
Unrequested help at the Store
We've read you can purchase tickets to the Nippon Professional Baseball League at 7-11. The clerk doesn't understand a word we utter, but a younger Japanese woman behind us responds affirmatively with one word of broken English, "Yes," then leads us by the hand upstairs to the automated kiosk. But does she stop there? Noooooooooo, this is Japan, thus she navigates us through the hieroglyphics, translating as she punches the buttons for us, insuring we get our exact desires. About seven minutes later, we have tickets for tomorrow's Tokyo Giants game.
(Editor's note: "Noooooooooo" is almost always sarcastically negative, not this time)

Based on her blushful, embarrassed reaction to my thanks, I'm concerned If I tried to tip her she might suffer a heart attack. Not wanting to be arrested for murder, I decide to save some money.
The likelihood of a complete stranger overhearing you, and volunteering to spend 7 minutes of their lives performing the identical task in the city of Los Angeles- approaches zero (mathematically speaking.)

The Taxi
uniformed white gloved Japanese taxi driver
The taxi door automatically swings open, the immaculately dressed driver's pressed uniform includes white gloves. Deferential and accommodating, he respectfully bows his head and thanks you after receiving his exact fare. While Japanese find tipping confusing/uncomfortable, failure to tip an American cabbie will often result in him spitting swear words into your face.

Make it Seen
At a Kyoto Temple, I drop my wife's sweater to free my hands to take a photo. After several shooting angles we walk away, leaving it on the ground; ten minutes later she feels a chill. I race back up the trail, scanning the ground, huffing and puffing, doubting I'll find it. To my surprise it's in the most visible place imaginable, nearly eye level on the gate!
Someone picked it up, and intentionally put it in a location the poor sap who lost it would be most likely to see it. Talk about thoughtful. Time and time again, similar occurrences play out.

Sparkling Streets
The streets of Tokyo are as clean as Singapore's, but unlike the harsh penalties used by the SE Asian island nation to discourage litter, Japanese are taught early and often to pick-up after themselves; littering laws are unnecessary.

Deeply embedded into Japanese culture is "omotenashi-" exquisite politeness with a desire to maintain harmony and avoid conflict.
The needs of an individual are subservient to those of the group/ society at large. No one will push you out the way or cut in front of you. Japanese never brag, especially about themselves. You'll rarely, if ever, witness a public disagreement. No one will rev their Harleys in the middle of the night (please commit hari-kari if you do;) as such behavior is simply at odds with the culture.
While other cultures are of the world are quickly becoming homogenized, Japan remains an island of propriety and self-sacrifice in an ever rising sea of selfish deuchebaggery. When it comes to politeness and hospitality, the land of the rising sun wins the gold, and it's not even close. Take a bow, Japan. 
Video: My omotenashi- honoring Japanese deer ancestors