The flowering of cherry trees flows lake a wave from south to north each Spring in Japan, their paths and behavior predicted like meteorology.
There are celebrations in nearly every town and city along the way, with carnivals and food tents popping up in parks and castles. We experienced the 100th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Hirosaki, a smaller, more isolated city in the Aomori prefecture in the far north of Japan's main island.
Hirosaki features a large central park with an Edo era castle, surrounded by moats, botanical gardens, samurai villages, and of course many flowering cherry trees. The castle park was host to the very busy spring festival. Cherry blossoms are spiritually important to the Japanese and I felt the force of them in spite of the crowds and activity. It exemplified the nuanced sweetness in Japanese culture and in spite of it being an oddity for three tall white people to be present in such an isolated area for such a uniquely Japanese event, we were welcomed warmly with beer, sausages, and even a few strokes of my beard. Families and large groups were sprawled out on giant tarps in the grass, each having their own special party.
On the second day of our visit we even discovered a carnival area with games, kids rides, and live attractions including motorcycle stunts. There were ice cream stands every few feet serving apple and cherry blossom flavors. There were hundreds of food booths serving everything you can imagine from fresh scallops, to squid, and even hot dogs. My favorite was a hotdog deep fried in an egg roll shell. My day job is as a festival producer and it was thus fascinating to catch a glimpse of the 'Japanese Carnie Life.'
I'm writing this post exactly a month after experiencing the event and I admit I've had some writer's block following the visit. With 2500 photos captured through ten days of adventures, I have many more stories to tell. I just have not felt so inclined to do so lately. I learned a lot in Japan about life. It brought a lot into focus about my being and my behavior as an artist. It's so tempting to turn one's passion into an appropriation apparatus and so easy to fall into the routine of mindlessly filling up memory cards as my camera gobbles up every scene we encounter. Culture is so driven now by data consumption that success as a visual artist is all too easily measured by volumes and reach of content. It's so easy to over-share. Being open, listening, and being fully engaged with experiences is so much more valuable and contributes to better quality in lower volumes of work. Telling a story discovered through that mindset is all the more meaningful compared to one pilfered by a tactical assault camera squad. We did a little of both, with volumes diminishing as the trip progressed.
Three important things Japan taught me about life:
Kintsugi - The art of repairing ceramics with lacquer and the cracks adorned in gold.
Wabi-sabi - The acceptance of transience and imperfection.
Civility - I very much enjoyed how polite, quiet, and courteous everyone was. America feels too loud.