Friday, April 2, 2010

SAKURA: All the World is Pink and White

by Suzie Johnson
Cherry blossom time
Showers of pink and white
Small girl is happy

A few weeks ago when we were posting about different songs, I thought about how a song can evoke certain emotions and illuminate memories in my heart and mind. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until I started thinking about what flower I wanted to write about that I realized the cherry blossom does the same thing for me.
When my husband and I were first married, we had two beautiful cherry trees in front of our house. In fact, our entire street was lined with them. It made me feel incredibly lucky because each spring when those trees would bloom and the blossoms would cascade to the soft green grass below, it reminded me of one of the most special times of my childhood.

When the city decided to chop our trees down for a beautification project, I was not happy. How dare they take away something of mine that stirred my heart every time I looked at them? And as for that beautification project? It turned out to be an ugly shoulder between the road and the newly cemented sidewalk where my trees once stood. It didn't help that we had to actually pay for their little project.
However, they could take away my cherry trees but they couldn’t take away my memories. Memories that, each year when the fragile blooms appear, transport me back to Japan, where I lived when I was a little girl.
Living in Japan as a child was a wondrous experience. Origami, Mount Fuji, riding the bullet train, and learning to speak Japanese. White cranes, pagodas, and running through the villages where the incredibly kind market vendors loved me and my friends and would give us Japanese treats. (Thanks Carol for helping my memory burst to life last week with the dried peas and rice cakes!)
It should be noted that we were expressly forbidden to go to the villages, but my friends and I couldn’t help but sneak off and run through the fields anyway with my baby sister toddling behind. I guess I was a little on the non-compliant side when I was little. My poor mother had a terrible time keeping track of me.

I honestly can’t tell you how old I was, maybe eight years old, when we traveled from Yokusaka to Kamakura for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival where the Japanese people celebrate the beauty of the cherry blossom. Though I really had no idea what to expect, I bounced with anticipation. We had been learning to dance to a song in school called Sakura. The word Sakura refers to the cherry blossom on the Japanese cherry trees. Even after forty years, I can still remember standing in a circle practicing the words and then singing and dancing to the music.

I’m not sure I really knew what to expect at the Festival, or if I even knew what a Cherry Blossom Festival was. But the cherry blossom song was special to me, and that was really all I needed to know. The other source of my excitement: my parents’ friends, Tom and his Japanese wife, Setsu, would be accompanying us that day. Tom was as fun as Setsu was sweet, and they meant the world to me. I simply adored them. Any opportunity to spend time with Setsu was special. Setsu lived in a traditional Japanese house, and I loved it when we went to visit her.

The parade was spectacular. Samurai warriors led the parade, followed by Japanese girls in their kimonos. Dancers in costumes twirled colorful wood and paper umbrellas. The emperor and his wife (or people portraying them) were carried in on separate carriages. I was in awe. But perhaps the most amazing part of the entire day was standing on the cherry-tree-lined street under those wonderful pink and white trees with the occasional petal floating in the air around me.

Setsu, Japan, and blossoming cherry trees are forever tied together in my heart. When I see cherry blossoms I think of Japan and of Setsu, and I’m a little girl again, twirling in the street, dancing to the song about the cherry trees.
I remember being heartbroken when the time came to say goodbye to Tom and Setsu. Whether they moved back to the United States before we did, I don’t remember. I just remember how sad I was when I didn’t see her anymore. But God is so good. Just a few years ago, almost forty years later, I was able to see Setsu again. The years fell away and I was a little girl again, laughing, crying, and hugging my sweet Setsu. My mother, my sister, and Setsu and I had a very blessed time together that day, and I’m so thankful we did, because she passed away not long after that.
Below are the words to Sakura, as well as the English translation, followed by a You Tube video. You may be surprised to discover you’ve heard the song before. And while it’s as lovely as I remembered, the song doesn’t give credit to the creator of those lovely blossoms and I would be remiss if I didn’t.

Thank you, Lord for these heavenly flowers and the joy they bring to my heart when I see them. And, during this most holy time of year when blossoming flowers of all types remind us that all things are new, thank you for the rebirth, renewal and hope we have in you.
Is there a flower that inspires a special memory for you? Would you like to share it with us?

sakura sakura
no-yama mo sato mo
mi-watasu kagiri
kasumi ka kumo ka
asahi ni niou
sakura sakura
sakura sakura
yayoi no sora wa
mi-watasu kagiri
kasumi ka kumo ka
nioi zo izuru
iza ya iza ya
mi ni yukan

And the English translation:

Cherry Blossoms
Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms,
Blanketing the countryside,
As far as you can see.
Is it a mist, or clouds?
Fragrant in the morning sun.
Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms,
Flowers in full bloom.
Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms,
Across the Spring sky,
As far as you can see.
Is it a mist, or clouds?
Fragrant in the air.
Come now, come,
Let's look, at last!
**Note from Suzie: I am in class all day today and thus far the class has been intense and the homework heavy, so I may not be able to respond to your comments until later this evening.
Pictures courtesy of
If the You Tube video below doesn't display for you, and you'd like to hear Sakura, sung and demonstrated with hand motions, you may view it here:


  1. Beautiful, Suzie, just beautiful. Such a rich memory and told to us so well. How wonderful that you were able to see your friend Setsu.

    The song is familiar, too, so it must be used often as a representative of the Japanese culture.

    A beautiful post!

  2. First of all, I loooove the Haiku, and yes I do recognize the song. It's nice to finally know what it means.

    Thanks for sharing these lovely memories. Beautiful job.

  3. Suzie! I loved this post. I never knew you spent time in Japan. You have so many precious memories. I love it that you opened your heart to share them with us.


  4. What beautiful memories, Suzie! I love knowing these things about you--and I love that you got to reunite with such a special lady in your life while she was still on this earth! Thanks for sharing this with us!

    Cherry blossoms hold a special memory for me, too. They remind me of D.C., where my husband and I met.

  5. Good morning Deb, Dina, Lisa, and D'Ann! I'm getting ready to go to my last day of class.

    Deb, Dina, thank you both. Yes, I thought you might recognize that song. I love it so much, and Dina, it was such a neat song to dance to.

    Lisa, I'm not a world traveler like you. Japan was it for me, and it's been so many years. But it was a place I loved so much for so many different reasons, and I really would love the opportunity to go back some day.

    D'Ann, I've been only to the train station in D.C., but the trees weren't blooming. I've heard they're spectacular, and I'm going to try and get there one year while they're blooming. I'm glad the cherry trees remind you of meeting your husband.

  6. Suzie,
    I loved your post. Incredible memories, incredible blossoms in those cherry trees, and one incredible God. I pray you do well in this intense class you are taking and that you can rejuvenate when it's finished and bloom just like one of those cherry blossoms! :)
    Hugs and Smiles!

  7. Wow, Suzie, what a lovely post! I didn't know you'd spent time in Japan, either. What a rich experience; thanks for sharing it with us. The blossoms are gorgeous. I'd love to see them in DC sometime. For now, I'm quite content with the peach, plum, apricot, and almond blossoms in the orchards near my house (which have come and gone already!). What a gorgeous sight.

  8. It's a beautiful post, Suzie. And the memories!

    I had a Japanese BFF when I was in Jr and Sr high school. When she went to Japan for a visit, she brought me back a postcard set and a fan. I still have both items although they're around 40 yrs old now. My favorite postcard was the one of Mt Fuji. Oh - and there was one with a strange hi-speed train, too. Can't remember the rest.

    Wonderful job with the post.

  9. Oooh, Anita, I went on the bullet train. And I went to Mt Fuji, too. I remember it being so beautiful.

    Susie, again with almond blossoms. :-) I really have to see what they look like. I have no fruit or nut trees anywhere at my house, but I'd love to have one. Tomorrow I'll be in California, so maybe I'll see an blooming almond tree while I'm there.

    Hey Jilly, Jill! Thanks for those prayers. I finished the class. It was a wonderful learning experience, but I'm totally exhausted.

    Thanks all for visiting and leaving your comments. You really made me smile.

  10. Ah, thank you for a brief glimpse of a beautiful spring! Something we don't have here in the Rockies.
    : )

  11. Suzie, beautiful post :-) Your childhood experiences in Japan sound fascinating - thanks for sharing your wonderful memories and I'm glad your class is finished :-)


Share This Post

How Our Giveaways Work: The Official Rules

We, the ladies of Inkwell Inspirations, would love to give free stuff to everybody. Since we can't, we will often have a giveaway in conjunction with a specific post. Unless otherwise stated, one winner will be drawn from comments left on that post between the date it was published and the end of the giveaway as determined in the post. Entries must be accompanied by a valid email address. This address is used only to contact the commenter in the event that he/she is the winner, and will not be sold, distributed, or used in any other fashion. The odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. NO PURCHASE, PLEDGE, OR DONATION NECESSARY TO ENTER OR TO WIN. ALL FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS APPLY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.