Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japan - Home of the Gracious



Now I have done posts on my trips to Japan and our houseguest, Koz, but I wanted to do a post on the people of Japan.  Never have I encountered people that operate with such grace in their lives.  They celebrate not only the beauty in people and culture, but the beauty in life and that, in itself, is refreshing.

On my first trip there,  Brad and I took a trip up to the mountains, while we were in Japan, and it was just beginning to be Cherry Blossom season.  This is a very big deal in Japan and they actually have a weeklong national holiday to celebrate it.  You realize that the Japanese are extremely hardworking people in addition to their other admirable qualities, so to take a week off of work reflects just how important this holiday is in Japanese culture. 

Just a bit of American History trivia,  Washington, DC’s famed cherry trees grow in three park locations: around the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, in East Potomac Park (Hains Point), and on the grounds of the Washington Monument. In 1912, the Japanese government presented us with over 2,000 cherry blossom trees (11 varieties) as a show of goodwill to our government and the first two trees that First Lady Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted at that time, still stand today.

On the way to a Ryokan, in the mountains, we stopped to appreciate the beauty of the blooming Cherry trees and it was freezing.  We must have walked around in the freezing cold for over an hour "admiring" the trees.

"See.  A bloom, " they would say as they pointed out various random blooms on the trees.  I was sleep deprived and freezing and I was becoming increasingly irritated with each of Brad's "very nice." comments as he took another picture of a bloom.

At one point, we were walking around a very small town and there was a small garage that housed a "parade float," for lack of a better word, from their festival.  It was amazing.  We were able to go inside (of course, because the Japanese people would consider it rude to deny a guest access anywhere) and the craftmanship of the float was breathtaking.  It was absolutely a work of art.  Now, make no mistake, at the time, I was exhausted and wanted to get in the car and go to the Ryokan where I could curl up on my mat and rest, but in hindsight I am so appreciative of that moment.  Anyway, we must have "stopped to admire" what seemed like 500,000 cherry blossoms that trip, and with each moment, Brad would either say, "very nice" or take a photo. This became a running joke between the two of us.

So, after being gone for a week in a foreign country, where night is day and day is night and then enduring the 14 hour flight home and all that that entails, Brad and I finally turn on our street, and as we are passing the front of our home, we notice that right in our front yard we have a blooming Japanese cherry tree that we have passed 1000 times to retrieve the newspaper.

The purpose of this post is to express my love and appreciation of the people of Japan.  I may have made fun of the culture because it is "farn" to me, but I have never encountered a more accomodating community in my entire life.  If I were by myself in the middle of Tokyo and I could not find where I was going (usually this was just my hotel), I could ask ANYONE and they would stop what they were doing (including the clerk behind a counter at a store) to physically walk me halfway to my location.  It was unbelievable.  Try doing that in New York sometime.

I count Hiro, Masa, Mr. Okura, Yuki, Koz, Yoichi, and Norico as my very close friends.  They have opened their hearts to us and allowed us to experience things that I never dreamed that I would have the opportunity to experience in my lifetime.   They come bearing gifts, regardless of whether I am visiting them, or they are visiting me - EVERY TIME, not only for me and Brad, but for each of our children.  I have so many special, and yes hilarious memories with them that I will never forget.  I pray for them and their families and friends every day and I only hope that Japan will be able to recover to become an even stronger nation after this unfortunate tragedy.

The last time Brad and I were in Tokyo, we went to this famous shopping district there.  I was snapping away with my outdated (by their standards) digital camera.  There was the Condomania store that I could not get enough pictures in front of (It advertised Mega Big Boy, Super Big Boy, and Smart Boy), the three metal pole benches, and, of course, the Japanese Wendy's.  I became aware of the graciousness of the Japanese people who were allowing me to take their photo as they went about their everyday existence.  It was then that the stereotype of the Japanese tourist with the camera popped into my consciousness.  We always make fun of the Japanese tourist with the camera around his neck seemingly fascinated with everyday American life, and there I was doing the exact same thing in their country. 

Washington, D.C. has a cherry blossom festival each year to celebrate the blooming of the Japanese Cherry Trees. It is being celebrated over three weekends this Spring beginning March 26.  If you want to experience a little Japanese culture, this is your opportunity to do so.  The link is above. I have also included a link where you can send support to the Japanese people in crisis.  To donate to the Salvation Army, text “Japan'' or “Quake'' to 80888. You may also Text “RedCross'' to 90999 to donate to its fund set up in response to the disaster.

I am thinking of you, my friends, and I pray that you and your families and your friends remain safe during this time of crisis.  It is interesting to note that there has been no looting or violence during this stressful time for the people of Japan.  This is yet another example of the benevolence of their culture and the purity of soul of the people there.  It is not even on their radar to respond in a negative way during this crisis.  That is a testament to their strength, their courage and their grace.  I will never look at my Cherry Tree the same way, again.

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