April 15, 2012

Sakura Wishes: A Sunday Spent in Gion

Today marks the end of the hanami season, as the sakura petals are noticeably falling from the trees, swirling through the air like little pink fairies. They say that if you can catch a falling sakura petal in your hand, you can make a wish, and it will come true. I love superstitions like this, and was lucky enough to make wishes in one of my favourite places in Japan - Kyoto. We had our last hanami at the famous Maruyama Park near Yasaka Shrine in the Gion district.

Sakura tree outside Kawaramachi Station
People gather for final hanami at Yasaka Shrine in Gion, Kyoto

People partaking in hanami
The weeping cherry tree at Maruyama Park
It was a lot of fun, but at the same time, I felt there was a hint of sadness to the occasion. Not only because the sakura have nearly disappeared for another year, but also because of an accident that occurred in Gion on Thursday, where seven people were killed when an out of control minivan plowed through a busy pedestrian crossing. I found out about the accident through The Japan Times, but I'm not sure if it's made worldwide news. The Japanese media still doesn't seem to know what was wrong with the driver (who was also killed in the crash), but there's some speculation that he had an epileptic seizure, and that caused the accident. Whatever happened, it was an awful tragedy to occur at what is meant to be such a happy, beautiful time of year in Japan.

Street sign marking Gion
Tribute placed for the victims of Thursday's accident
As we made our way to Maruyama Park, we passed the intersection where the accident happened. You can still see police chalk marks on the road, and beside the pedestrian crossing are tributes for the victims, containing flower bouquets, tea, alcohol, and wagashi (traditional sweets). Being a busy Sunday afternoon, thousands of people hurried through the intersection; tourists heading off to Kyoto's various attractions, Japanese people on their way to hanami parties, everyone just going about their daily lives. But as I stood by the crossing and watched for a little while, every now and then, someone would stop by the mass of flowers, bow their head and clasp their hands together in a Shinto prayer for a brief moment, and then carry on. I think that's a very Japanese way of dealing with tragedy.

1 comment:

  1. thats so sad :(
    On a happier note, the World Focus section of the ODT featured a picture of the cherry blossom in Osaka, Japan today, very pretty