Monday, April 11, 2011

An AQ Sakura Experience

My friend, Vicky, aptly refers to our lives now as BQ and AQ. Before Quake and After Quake. It shows just how much our lives changed in an instant on March 11, 2011. One month later, it was Cherry Blossom Viewing time, and people who desired to go out and drink while reveling in the beauty of the cherry blossoms above while enjoying the warmer spring weather and hanging out with friends and family worried about "jishuku". Jishuku means "self-restraint." It expresses a feeling to not show too much enjoyment out of respect for victims of the earthquake and tsunami. At the same time, people argued that we should support the economy and buy sake and food and celebrate as usual under the cherry blossoms. I was of the latter group.


This is not a cherry tree we are sitting under, but it was the only tree left in the park without a family. I think it was the only tree that blooms at the same time as the cherry blossoms, but since it is not a cherry tree, it stood alone. We sat there and enjoyed our little viewing party
.

 Earthquake and liquifaction damage in our local park. I mentioned this before, but this was originally an evacuation zone for everyone in our neighborhood. Not anymore.

 Papa...pppppp....ppppp. Luka's joke is to say Papa name and then make two farting noises. It's really funny.
 My name is Luka.
 And I am too cool for school.
 We took the long way home in order to view the blossoms, and meanwhile, Yusuke's mom started planning for next year. She wants to do it up with a BBQ in the park and she had decided to invite Auntie Nanako so it will be a like a real party with lots of beer.


The song Sukiyaki is being used as an inspirational song in these hard AQ times. I think Suntory had several celebrities get together and record it, We are the World-style. I have known this song since my days as an exchange student in high school as it is quite famous, and even people in the USA know of it. It was written in 1961, performed by Kyu Sakamoto and is called Sukiyaki only because that was a recognizable word for Americans. It is actually called Ue o Muite Arukoo (I look to the sky when I walk).

I learned to play this song on the piano long ago and still have the sheet music. I dug it out so I could teach the words and melody to Ailin. She is learning to sing it now (along with all the songs in her Glee repertoire). This song has new meaning to me now. I don't think I really understood it before.


In this song, he is talking about spring, and in Japan, spring is synonymous with cherry blossoms. He has just experienced loss. It could be a loss of a loved one, but here, cherry blossom season and spring is a time for endings and new beginnings. Graduations followed by entrance ceremonies. Job transfers followed by welcome parties to new branches. It is a time of sadness and good-byes, but quickly followed by a time of fresh starts and newness.


In the wake of AQ, we are all filled with extreme sadness, and we cannot help but look up at the cherry blossoms in a new light. They bring hope. They bring something new. But, they carry the memories of our old lives.


This song says something else that is very revealing about Japanese culture. "I look up at the sky so that you won't see the tears in my eyes." Yes, that is true. People try to avoid speaking explicitly about their feelings and the sadness they are experiencing. They want to appear strong, hopeful, resigned. They don't want you to worry about them. When they are alone or you are not looking, they cry and the tears fall.

Sukiyaki Lyrics (by Rokusuke Ei)

Ue o muite arukoo I look up when I walk
Namida ga kobore nai yoo ni So the tears won't fall
Omoidasu haru no hi Remembering those happy spring days
Hitoribotchi no yoru But tonight I'm all alone
Ue o muite arukoo I look up when I walk
Nijinda hoshi o kazoete Counting the stars with tearful eyes
Omoidasu natsu no hi Remembering those happy summer days
Hitoribotchi no yoru But tonight I'm all alone
Shiawase wa kumo no ue ni Happiness lies beyond the clouds
Shiawase wa sora no ue ni Happiness lies above the sky
Ue o muite arukoo I look up when I walk
Namida ga kobore nai yoo ni So the tears won't fall
Nakinagara aruku Though my heart is filled with sorrow *
Hitoribotchi no yoru For tonight I'm all alone
(whistling) (whistling)
Omoidasu aki no hi Remembering those happy autumn days
Hitoribotchi no yoru But tonight I'm all alone
Kanashimi wa hoshi no kage ni Sadness hides in the shadow of the stars
Kanashimi wa tsuki no kage ni Sadness lurks in the shadow of the moon
Ue o muite arukoo I look up when I walk
Namida ga kobore nai yoo ni So the tears won't fall
Nakinagara aruku Though my heart is filled with sorrow *
Hitoribotchi no yoru For tonight I'm all alone
(whistling) (whistling) 
* Note that poetic license was used to render the English lyrics.

3 comments:

peggy said...

thank you for your sweet story... a month after the quake i have been thinking of you all from my home here in colorado in the u.s.a. where i live we have only now seen the first small green buds on the trees and not one daffodil or tulip has bloomed - but we know they will.
"the true voice in each of us speaks to the possibility that there IS light held in the darkness."
we each are cherry blossoms, aren't we? despite the sadness your words have reminded me of that ...
gassho.

Michele at Sweet Leaf said...

Nice one, Mande.

Shannon said...

That is a really beautiful song. Hearing it hurts my heart. It is amazing how music transcends language. Nice post!