Foreign Policy Blogs

Cherry blossom viewing

Cherry blossom viewing

Cherry blossom

My small town of Seto in the suburbs of Okayama held a cherry blossom viewing festival today. In Japan’s collective society, even viewing the ethereal cherry blossoms is a community activity. For one week in the early spring, the scraggly trees littering the hillsides burst to life in bright tints before their blossoms fall away in a shower of white and pink petals. Their fleeting beauty reminds the Japanese of the temporality of life.

As I sat under the budding cherry blossoms with my neighbors, drinking chu-hi and eating sakura-mochi (a cherry blossom flavored rice cake stuffed with bean paste and wrapped in a perilla leaf), I realized where the Japanese find the strength to pull through large natural disasters, such as the 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami that hit the Tohoku region Mar. 11.

The Japanese place a lot of emphasis in conforming to the norms of their communities. Some anthropologists attribute this to their rice-agriculture tradition. Growing rice requires the pooling of resources and cooperation of the entire community. If one person decides to do things his own way, he could potentially sabotage the entire harvest. I only recently became aware that many of the village councils set up during the feudal period still exist as unofficial local governments. Despite the drawbacks of a harmonious, collective society, their emphasis on the community is what enables the Japanese to endure the toughest of times.



Dustin Dye

Dustin Dye is the author of the YAKUZA DYNASTY series, available through the Amazon Kindle.

He lived in Okayama, Japan, where he taught English at a junior high school through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program for three years. He is a graduate from the University of Kansas, where he received a bachelor's degree in anthropology.

His interest in Japan began in elementary school after seeing Godzilla fight Ghidorah, the three-headed monster. But it wasn't until he discovered Akira Kurosawa's films through their spaghetti Western remakes that he truly became fascinated in the people and culture of Japan.

He lives in Kansas with his wife, daughter and guinea pig.

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E-mail him: [email protected]