Cherry Blossoms – Sakura 2005

I had a chance to go out and see the Sakura (Cherry Blossom) trees last weekend. I went to Osaka Castle Park (大阪城公園)and slacked around for a few hours. “Hanami” is a good excuse to get some sake in the middle of the afternoon. Life is good.

The Cherry Blossom trees in Japan are a really big deal. They sit around quietly for most of the year, and then suddenly, for a few days in the spring time, BAM! They’re blooming everywhere and Japanese people are outside at 11am getting drunk on their plastic mats.

Seriously though. I would say that the blooming of the trees is an event big enough to warrant planning an entire trip to the country around. It is hard to predict the exact weekend they will be blooming, but if you could time it right, it would be worth it!

My friends tell me that there are a few reasons for this strange love of the flower. Here they are.

The trees usually bloom in late March / early April, which marks the coming of Spring. Once they bloom, they will only stay at 満開 “mankai” full-bloom for a few days. Usually until the next rain or windy day. For Japanese, this delicate temporary nature of the Sakura is beautiful.

Some kids in the park I chatted up said that, when the Sakura trees leaves fall to the ground, their life energy returns to earth. Then, when we humans die, our life energy will go to the Sakura trees, and the trees will bloom again. The kids were 20. And they were drinking beer at noon. Interesting philosophy anyway.

In Osaka Castle Park, it was weird to notice some homeless tents up right underneath the sakura trees. The homeless had some of the best seats in the house. I have never seen Japanese hang out so close to homeless before. Kids were literally going through their junk to find things to play with.

Anyway. This particular year in Kansai the trees bloomed on Saturday, and then Sunday night it rained all night.

Though actually even though it rained there are still some trees going strong near my place in Nara!

– Harvey

Old School Vending with ID Check

I was in this shady onsen (hot springs) town in Nagano, and I found this vending machine for alcohol out on the street.

Have any of you guys ever seen one of these before?

There are vending machines which sell beer all over the place in Japan, but this machine is a little out of the ordinary.

This machine actually requires you to enter your ID and verify your age before you can get your Asahi Super Dry, or Sapporo Ichiban. Even has Chu-Hai! Yum. Kinda cool huh? I wonder if this would be able to read Gaijin ID Cards too…

The weird thing is, I have never seen a machine which checks for ID before. All of the other alcohol vending machines I have seen will vend to anyone who puts a coin in the slot.

Another weird thing is that this vending machine looks very old. It’s as if a long time ago, they were using machines with this ID check feature, but the idea flopped so they gave up.

I’m not sure about this though… If anyone knows let me know!