Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Under cherry trees

Cherry blossom forecast (see Neil Duckett's blog)

It looks from the latest cherry blossom maps as if the blossom should have reached Tokyo by now. Here in London the blossom is already out. A few years ago we had a small blossom viewing party in our garden and I could not resist pinning up some Japanese poems in translation, like this one by Kobayashi Issa: Under cherry trees / there are / no strangers.

Of course blossom viewing in Japan is no longer an occasion for reverential nature worship, and in many ways it never was, as is clear from this passage in The Tsurezuregusa of Kenkō: 'The man of breeding never appears to abandon himself completely to his pleasures; even his manner of enjoyment is detached. It is the rustic boors who take all their pleasures grossly. They squirm their way through the crowd to get under the trees; they stare at the blossoms with eyes for nothing else; they drink sake and compose linked verse; and finally they heartlessly break off great branches and cart them away. When they see a spring they dip their hands and feet to cool them; if it is snow, they jump down to leave their footprints. No matter what the sight, they are never content merely with looking at it' (Kenkō, ‘Essays in Idleness’ (1330-32), translated by Donald Keene).

1 comment:

Benjamin Vogt said...

I love that Kenko quote. I always despise (too strong of a word) people who walk on new-fallen snow and mess it up. There is something in me that wants to romp in it, like the impulse to dive face-first into a freshly-baked chocolate cake. But the quote also speaks to that sort of fakey ecotourism I see, now being appropirated (justly and not) by the national parks.