Hanami by Jesslee Cuizon

beneath the cherry trees

Like wild cherry blossoms
Glowing in the morning sun

Motoori Norinaga

On a journey
Resting beneath the cherry blossoms
I feel myself to be in a Noh play

Matsuo Basho

You’ve got to believe it. Well, otherwise you couldn’t possibly believe that cherry trees could bloom so beautifully. I’ve been out of sorts these past two or three days, because I couldn’t believe in such a beauty. But now I’ve finally understood it: there are bodies buried beneath the cherry trees.
Kajii Motojiro, Beneath the Cherry Trees

This year has been cool and the cherry blossoms came into bloom very late. Today it is raining. The rain is beating the blossoms from the trees. Petals are lying everywhere on the wet ground. The cherry blossoms may be gone by tomorrow.

The year is divided by events of nature. Cherry blossoms. Fireflies. The autumn moon. The changing colours of the leaves. Japanese people admire these signs of change in nature and celebrate them. The ohanami or hanami – the o is an honorific prefix – cherry blossom viewing party is a significant event in the calendar. The end of winter and the beginning of spring. And sometimes perhaps also a celebration of graduation or the start of a new academic year or a new job. After the beauty of the heavy clouds of cherry blossoms on the trees the petals blowing in the wind are like the transience of life. I have a great memory of an aikido dojo hanami party in Maruyama Park in Kyoto.

Cherry blossom parties are especially important this year. In 2011 many parties were cancelled because of the Tohoku earthquake. Last weekend I saw cherry blossom parties still going on even in the almost freezing dark of evening.

And the next day when it did start to become warm I did go to a dojo hanami party. But it was at night. In a Japanese pub. So there were no cherry blossoms. And no viewing. So ohanami had become an abstract concept. But everyone was happy that it was held.


story | haiku | background articles
Motohiro Kajii, Beneath the Cherry Trees translated by Morgan Giles

haiku by Matsuo Basho

more haiku by Matsuo Basho

cherry blossom
Motoori Norinaga
Motoori Norinaga Museum
about Motoori Norinaga
Interview about Norinaga
Kajii Motojiro
Matsuo Basho
cherry blossoms in Washington DC

photo: Hanami by Jesslee Cuizon http://www.flickr.com/photos/eelssej_/3420576294/
Jesslee Cuizon’s photostream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eelssej_/


This post is published simultaneously on the aikido site aikiweb

my columns on aikiweb http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=75&filter[1]=Niall%20Matthews

I have an essay in a charity e-book put together by some writers and photographers to raise money for victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku on 11 March 2011. It costs $9.99.

© niall matthews 2012


  1. niall

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment Carina. I hope spring arrives soon!

  2. Thank you Niall for this post, by reading it the first time I thought that apparently it has nothing in common with my post of yesterday http://entrenandoaikido.blogspot.com.es/2012/04/mimosa.html, but surprise.. it has the feeling, I wrote that my mother always made us aware of the yellow beauty of the mimose along the beach and the street leaving Mar del Plata, that meant that spring arrived, the cold humid winter was gone and we felt like beach, although the wind was fresh and we had to take blankets to drink mate on the beach. Just like the hanami feeling.
    And by translating it the phrase of Kajii Motojiro remind me the story of Lafcadio Hearn Jiu-roku-sakura http://entrenandoaikido.blogspot.com.es/2012/01/jiu-roku-sakura.html

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