The past ten months of my life as a foreign exchange student in Japan has been a dream. Every day is an opportunity to learn something new, may it be a mere word or a cultural tradition. One of my favourite things about Japan is how they put so much meaning into everything. A kanji character can paint a picture like a simple gesture can brighten a day. It really is the little things that carry the biggest meanings.
Being in Japan has taught me to look at the meaning of everything. Now, I look at everything with the sole purpose to find its meaning. Last April, I was able to see cherry blossoms for the first time. A year ago, I was a click away from seeing such a sight, but being able to witness it personally? The feeling was unexplainable, while the experience was priceless. My vivid memory still brings me back to the cool wind breezing by its branches and the sakura petals delicately falling five centimetres per second. But after a week or two, they disappeared. It all happened so fast. One minute, they decorated the trees like a Christmas tree adorned with Christmas lights, and the next minute, they were everywhere, carried mid-air and scattered all over the gutter. And soon after that, they were completely erased. All I had left of the cherry blossoms were my memories in the form of megabytes.
Just the sight of the cherry blossom trees made me feel so happy that I almost forget how I clenched my jaw, fighting the cold during the winter season; those cherry blossoms gave me small dose of warmth in such a short time. I remember reminding myself of the surprises that spring would bring, as I desperately clung to my blankets, unable to sleep because of the cold. It was that tiny crack of light amidst the darkness that helped me get out of bed, ready to face another day of temperatures my body is not familiar with.
Nowadays, the world is so full of pain and hurt. Waking up to tragic news has become a norm, when that really shouldn’t be the case. Sometimes, I wonder if my children and my children’s children will ever know a world where love conquers hate. However, no matter how painful it is to live in the world, we press on. We cling to the hope of the beautiful sight of cherry blossoms, after the harsh conditions of winter. Some people may ask why wait so long for
something that stays for such a short while, but the Japanese people don’t mind that. In Japan, there is an annual event called hanami where families or friends have a picnic under the cherry blossom trees, and appreciate the sakura trees while they bloom. They understand that you can appreciate the warmth of spring and sight of cherry blossoms even more, if you have already experienced one digit temperatures, or even temperatures lower than that.
Cherry blossoms remind us to appreciate all that is good in the world, even if they come and go so quickly. Despite all the bad and ugly that happen in our world, we have to learn to wait for the cherry blossoms to bloom. When disaster strikes, we should use what we have learned from the experience to be even better and stronger people. Continuing with our daily lives is an obstacle, yet we are alive today, hoping the cherry blossoms will bloom once again.
Isabella Angan is currently completing her 10-month exchange in Japan as a Literature student in Shikoku Gakuin University. She is set to return to the Philippines and to Silliman in September as a Mass Communication student.