There is so much written about the beauty and profoundness of cherry blossoms. And yet, my childhood memories of them are quite simple.
I grew up in Mimasaka, a small town in Okayama prefecture. There, like in everywhere else, spring was the time for new beginnings. When cherry trees began to bloom, I knew that change was about to come to my town and I will start my new school year.
In Mimasaka, rice farming was a central activity. The correct timing for new planting was a crucial factor. Farmers believed that the blooming of cherry blossoms was a sign from the heavens to begin preparations for planting the new crop. Many still think the same. It was a time for celebration, and hope for a good harvest and a prosperous year.
Today, as cherry blossoms open, everywhere in Japan children participate in elementary school entrance ceremonies. Like me back then, their faces are full of nervousness and hope, and their school bags are packed with new classroom supplies.
Japan has changed a lot since I was a child. But, some things never seem to change. I am more sophisticated now and have learned to appreciate cherry blossoms in ways I could have never imagined. But, I still hold the simple memories of cherry blossoms heralding change and hope dearly in my heart.