Monday, April 12, 2004



Everybody in the world knows how much the Japanese love cherry trees, how the cherry and its delicate pink blossoms symbolize so many things for Japanese culture and national spirit, how there are cherry trees all over the country in famous places for cherry blossom viewing. What no one knows, however, is the number of Japanese people that can actually fit under a cherry tree.

We found out on Saturday when we went to the quiet fishing village of Makino, our favorite for its cherry blossoms along the northern lakeside. As it turned out though, it was a Saturday so blue and clear that everyone within five hours of here came by bus, car, train, motorcyle, bicycle, kayak, walker, and I suspect many even crawled (more power to them!).

Each year at cherry blossom time, if the weather is kind enough to be beautiful on cherry blossom days (record not too good in recent years), we go to Makino. There we easily drive into the village and park, then walk beneath the trees along the road around the peninsula. This year though, when we got about 20 km from Makino we were very surprised to see frozen traffic, a first.

We sneaked off onto a local road, parked some distance away and made it at last to the cherry blossom road, along which we walked many kilometers through the crowds dining and partying beneath the fluffy pink arcade with its delicate aroma. Makino is a fine old fishing town entering changing times, with new cafes and restaurants opening in the old houses as artistic entrepreneurs from the city move into an idyllic setting that locals can't yet see, since they've been seeing it all their lives. Now that the fishing life is clearly waning, I hope they come to realize what a treasure they have.

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