A dream of cherry blossoms at the castle in Himeji

I had my first magical moment in Japan when I sat on the skyliner-train, on my way into the heart of Tokyo and watched houses and fields fly by. The landscape still had a grey tint to it because winter had just left the country. So when I saw the first tree in its beautiful white dress, my heart literally skipped a beat!

It was only then when it finally hit me

and my brain grasped the fact that I had arrived in Japan. The country of the rising sun which I will be calling my home for the next four months. The country where I will hopefully make many new friends, certainly struggle with the language, doubtlessly get a taste of the so different culture and, of course, unapologetically indulge in the delicious food! Let me tell you this: I was so excited for everything to come and, from that moment on, the cherry blossom became a symbol for all those beautiful feelings for me.

Cherry blossom in Tokyo

During my first week in Japan, I travelled from Tokyo over Hakone to Kyoto, made a stop in Nara and finally arrived in Osaka-the city of my exchange university. I saw countless red, black and white shrines, a stunning golden temple, one beautiful white castle, and, because I got lucky, Mount Fuji-san which is usually wrapped in a thick blanket of clouds. And the whole time, I was living the cherry blossom dream!

For the Japanese, these blossoms embody the mind-set of beauty, mortality, mindfulness and living in the moment. This stems from Buddhism, one of the two main religions, the other one being Shintoism, which shape the peoples’ lives here.

The sakura, the small, delicate, pink and white blossoms are also a symbol for life, death and renewal.

This is because the sudden explosion of petals all over the country is a euphoric sight but as quickly as they come, it never takes longer than a week before the so-called “sakurasnow” starts and they are gone with the wind.

Nevertheless, you can see Japanese walking around the cities, taking pictures of and with the flowers looking like they have never seen something so beautiful.

The highlight, however, is when groups of people gather under the most picturesque clusters of cherry blossom trees to celebrate a hanami (cherry-blossom-viewing). This means that they will sit on blue plastic mats, bring a traditional bento lunch with them to enjoy the sakura, each other’s company and the delicious food. It’s a real party, especially when there’s a lot of sake involved as soon as the evening sets.

Hanami on the square in front of the Himeji castle

Looking back, it was quite an intense overture to my time here because you can really only take in so much but although the time was far from enough to be satisfied with what I’ve seen, heard, felt or tasted, it has definitely made me hungry for more! So you will hear from me again soon!

Mata ne from Japan!

(this article was originally posted 17 April 2018 on my old blog)