Every year, around springtime, the cherry trees in Japan (sakura, or 桜) bloom. It’s only for a few days, and I’m to understand it is justifiably considered a national treasure. People come from all over the world to see the beautiful blooming of the cherry trees, and there is much said in Japanese art and music about the cherry trees. In fact, several AKB48 songs reference cherry trees, such as Sakura No Hanabiratchi, Sakura No Shiori, and maybe one of the more heartrending, Sakura no Ki Ni Narou:
I will turn into an eternal cherry tree
Yes, I won’t move from here
Even if you get lost on your heart’s path
I will stand here so that you know where love is
It is beautiful, yes. But every place has its own sakura. Here in Texas, it’s wildflowers and bluebonnets. For a few days in spring here, the fields turn blue, sometimes as far as the eye can see, and it’s at least as beautiful as the sakura trees in Japan. In my home state of Ohio, the lilac and mulberry trees would bloom, releasing their fragrance into the air as it mixes with the petrichor before a spring thunderstorm.
Japan is home to the Japanese, and the beauty of the sakura trees is something they treasure as a part of their culture, as the bluebonnets are as a part of where I live, and the spring thunderstorms and petrichor are as a part of mine.
We are the same people. Separated by thousands of miles of ocean, a slightly different genetic makeup, cultures that have different markers of beauty, languages that come with different histories and base assumptions, yes. But I’m willing to bet that a Japanese person who is in America remembers, for a few days each year, the sakura in their home country, and feel a sense of longing and loss.
For that is their home.
Sometimes I feel the same longing and loss for what was. There are many things in my past that are now gone, and they will never be coming back. Life marches on, time marches on, and eventually, somehow, we forget.
But the sakura trees do bloom every year. The petals sprout, bloom, and fall to the ground. And, for just a few days, I think the Japanese people remember that Japan is their home.
And it will never be mine.
And that is okay. I have my own. But I will learn their language. I will learn about their culture. And even if it is never home, even if I long to see the sakura as they see the sakura, I can be comforted that they also long to see the bluebonnets and wide open skies of Texas.
Someday, maybe, God or 神 willing, we will all get our wish.
こんばんわ, 私の日本の友達. The cherry trees will bloom again. And maybe, just maybe, someday I will show you the bluebonnets. You are proud of your home. Maybe I will show you mine.