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The Cherry-Blossoms in Japan

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The Cherry-Blossoms in Japan
The season of cherry-blossom in Vancouveris over heralding the approaching high-spring. The blossoms added to the scenicbeauty of the ever-green city, but did not call up my nostalgia for Japan. Theylooked slightly strange. Belonging to the familiar species in Japan, theyvisited and left Vancouver in a different manner.
Different surrounding landscapes may be aplausible reason. However, it seems to me that the most distinctive is in themanner of ending their lives. The blossoms in Vancouver remained fairly long onthe branches and faded into pale color, mismatched with young leaves. In theleast windy city, we enjoyed an even calmer spring, which began and ended likea lamb. In Japan, they fall from their branches with a storm in spring, beforethe tree begins to drink spring rain and to be luxuriant with green leaves.
The Japanese people’s attachment to theblossom is well-known. It is their favorite subject in art and literature andhighly regarded as the national flower. Why does it attract the Japanese somuch? Lovely, it is surpassed by many other flowers. While a cluster ofcherry-blossoms deserves to be ranked highly, it never threatens to rival apiece of rose in form and color even according to the authentic Japanese canonof floral beauty. So we cannot account for their attachment to the blossomsbecause of the visual beauty alone. The Japanese way of appreciating a floweris different from the Western way and characterized as literary. “Don't appreciate a flower only in full bloom.” is a maxim accepted among not onlyamateurs but ordinary people and is representative of the Japanese exquisitebeauty-consciousness. Such a feeling, especially for the cherry-blossoms, wouldprovide a clue to finding the mental attitude unique of the Japanese.
They even appreciate falling blooms. Theirtaste for ephemeral beauty underlies this attitude. Short-life is essential forexalting beauty to its supremacy. Typical of this kind of beauty, fireworkslose their brilliant light in a moment and hence are beautiful. Otherwise, theyare no more than a blaze of neon signs downtown. For the Japanese, thecherry-blossoms should not be long-lived but fall quickly. Blessed withseasonal varieties in the landscape, they are happy to find eternal life inanything ephemeral and evanescent.
Let’s look at a Japanese favorite scene.There is a hill, covered with a dense forest, which sprawls over the centralpart of an old city. In the midst of a morning, only the masonry of a mossystone-fence that reflects on the water betrays a history of the city. This isan old castle surrounded with its moat, the origin of which is traced back tothe age of shogunate Japan. Early in the morning, some petals of the cherry blossoms begin to fall and slip into the mist. As soon as the sun sweepsaway the mist, the old castle looms with its keep silhouetting against the bluesky. Fretted with petals, the moat mirrors cherry-trees on the rampart yieldingto a blast of wind. The petals on the water form a cleanly beautiful patternvarying with a capricious breeze. When a spring storm visits, it whirls uppetals high in the air and fiercely blows them against a passerby’s face. Theyare snowflakes dancing in the bright spring. The splendor of breathtakingbeauty is what the Japanese people eagerly await every year. The moats havebeen fully carpeted with pinkish white petals until the eastern part of thecity is overshadowed by the castle.
The passer-by can indulge in a romanticsentiment, resigning himself to the blossom storm and realize his short andbeautiful fate. He can taste a sentimental ecstasy watching petals dance whenhe identifies himself with the blossoms. He wishes that his end would bebeautiful like this. The fall of the blossoms suggests death. So, this emotionaroused by the scene is easily associated with beautiful death, the samurai’sphilosophy, which is reduced to the problem of how to prepare himself for his deathin service of his lord. Therefore, the blossom of feminine appearancetraditionally symbolizes the very masculine aesthetics.
The militarist-ruled government did nothesitate to exploit this feeling and to discipline recruits into determinedsoldiers of suicidal tendency. During World War II, the blossoms wereunfortunate to play the leading role as an official militaristic emblemopposite the imperial crest of chrysanthemum, representing self-sacrifice forthe divine emperor. The ephemeral beauty of the blossoms induced many soldiersto sacrifice themselves. A good cherry-blossom should fall quickly. Likewise, itis un-Japanese for a good Japanese soldier long to survive his comrades. Theyovercame the horror of death through their identification with the blossoms.Every year, the cherry-trees in Yasukuni Shrine, dedicated to soldiers sung orunsung, bloom in memory of their valiancy. A piece of the blossom is areincarnation of a soldier who fell in battle and was triumphantly receivedinto the Shrine.
In spite of the sorrowful collaborationwith the War, I love the literary sentiment that the Japanese hold for theblossoms and am proud of the unique delicacy of the Japanese. We know theglorification of death in terms of martyrdom for religious belief, self-sacrificefor love in the Western country, where the glorious death is compensated withgarlands. In my knowledge, however, there is no symbolic association betweenfallen flower and death in Western countries except The Selfish Giant by OscarWilde. In the last scene, the old giant meets again a boy under a tree coveredwith white blossoms, who now presents himself with stigmata on his palms andfeet and invites the giant to his garden. In the afternoon, the giant is found“lying dead under the tree, all covered with blossoms”. Although the author didnot utterly refer to blossoms in the falling process, it seems to me that theblossoms in the context are more than a shroud of his body, in celebration ofhis departure for Paradise. While Wilde’s sense may not be very parallel to theproper Japanese one, anyone who loves the scene can understand the Japanese wayof appreciating the cherry-blossoms.
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Autumn — overlooked my Knitting —
Autumn — overlooked my Knitting —
Dyes — said He — have I —
Could disparage a Flamingo —
Show Me them — said I —
Cochineal — I chose — for deeming
It resemble Thee —
And the little Border — Dusker —
For resembling Me —
Emily Dickinson
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We dream — it is good we are dreaming —
We dream — it is good we are dreaming —
It would hurt us — were we awake —
But since it is playing — kill us,
And we are playing — shriek —
What harm? Men die — externally —
It is a truth — of Blood —
But we — are dying in Drama —
And Drama — is never dead —
Cautious — We jar each other —
And either — open the eyes —
Lest the Phantasm — prove the Mistake —
And the livid Surprise
Cool us to Shafts of Granite —
With just an Age — and Name —
And perhaps a phrase in Egyptian —
It's prudenter — to dream —
























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You cannot put a Fire out —
You cannot put a Fire out —
A Thing that can ignite
Can go, itself, without a Fan —
Upon the slowest Night —
You cannot fold a Flood —
And put it in a Drawer —
Because the Winds would find it out —
And tell your Cedar Floor —
Emily Dickinson



















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