So far this week has proved a long and busy one. What with classes starting, there has been all sorts of scheduling and paperwork to deal with, books to buy, and yes, even some homework already. But by no means do I want it to sound like I’m complaining. So far things are going great, (I’ve successfully made it to all of the correct classrooms on time!) and it really does feel good be be back in school again. But it also feels nice to have a weekend of adventures ahead of me.
Friday evening I decided to go check out of of the city’s top cherry blossom viewing spots – the Chidorigafuchi moat around the Imperial Palace. I exited the subway station and was greeted by this outstanding view:
And that’s just the beginning. I must say, the sights were pretty spectacular, and I definitely got carried away with my camera. I ended up walking through a pedestrian park for most of the way, it was relatively quiet and peaceful.
I even came across a lovely clearing where several groups were enjoying hamani (“flower viewing,” a Japanese custom of having a picnic under the blossoms).
So it’s probably about time I explain the title of this post, (and time for me to show off my nerdy lit. major side). “Mono no aware” translates to English as “the pathos of things” or “an empathy towards things” and is a Japanese phrase which is used to signify the awareness of impermanence. Like all flowers, cherry blossoms have an expiration date. However, cherry blossoms in particular have an extremely short lifespan, typically only lasting about 2 weeks.
In this way, the sakura (cherry blossoms) are a reminder that life is short, and that we must take advantage of it while we can.
In a way, this is a sad sentiment. But I think it’s supposed to be. Mono no aware is about savouring the beautiful, but also acknowledging the sad reality that it will not last. Just like none of us will last.
We are all part of nature’s cycles, and we must accept that in order to enjoy and savour life exactly for its impermanence.
So there’s my cliché “carpe diem” speech, and I can’t promise there won’t be more. But one thing I find strange and interesting about Tokyo is the way that all this amazing historic and natural beauty is juxtaposed with immense modernity and technology. Like the Imperial Palace itself for example: the residence of the Emperor of Japan which has a long and important history, and which is surrounded by skyscrapers, subway stations, shopping malls and tourist attractions.
And how the sakura are so valued for their impermanent beauty, but people swarm trying to preserve the moment forever by capturing that perfect photograph. (Although I’ll admit I’m definitely guilty of this one).
Or how you can be in the busiest downtown district in the city, but turn the corner and you’ll find yourself in the most peaceful and quiet temple, without another person in sight.
It’s strange and wonderful at the same time, and I’m still learning to love the diversity this city has to offer.
But if there’s one thing I’ll take away from these beautiful and fleeting blossoms, it is that life should be savoured and every experience is precious.