Nara, Japan, is known for its magnificent cherry trees, which blossom between late March and early April. In my 20s, I was fortunate enough to be in Nara at this time, prior to heading to Tokyo, where I became a bar hostess. This slightly paraphrased excerpt from the diary I kept focuses more on the people I met and the food I ate than on the cherry blossoms.
“After arriving in Nara from Kyoto by train, we walked through Nara-koen Park to be greeted by tame deer covered in pigeons. In Shinto deer are considered to be the messengers of the gods. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom, and people were out celebrating. We came across a group of elderly folks picnicking. An old, toothless man did magic tricks with scarves; some ladies danced in their kimonos; someone else sang while the others clapped. They offered us some small squid balls and a yogurt drink I had seen in other parts of Asia.
After strolling through the park, we sat down with a bunch of rowdy men, who appeared to be drunk. They called us over, plied us with sake and beer, and fed us peanuts, crackers, tempura and other assorted tidbits. We understood that they were from a railroad post manufacturer. I had to sit next to the boss, who did not speak any English. He managed to get me to use chopsticks, fed me, and apologized for being drunk. They sang a song about the cherry blossoms (sakura).”
Image: Sakura (collage) by Belle Brett