• 10 . 04 . 05
  • Getting the best spot for a cherry blossom party involves some serious forward planning.

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Forward Planning, Sitting Pretty

I’ve been in bed for the last few days with flu or somesuch, so I wasn’t able to celebrate as much as I’d hoped. Despite my blocked sinuses and accompanying mountains of phlegm (sorry for the image), I did manage to stop by the cherry blossom party for a few hours and at least watch as others got silly on sake. And the gaijin weren’t the only ones. Usually after 9pm, my part of town shuts down and people go off to their beds. Gifu is after all, I’m told, a rural area of Japan (though, being a city of 500,000 people, you could’ve fooled me). Tonight was different, with loads of groups of people feasting away merrily late into the night.

Tonight, I also discovered Gifu Park is actually twice as big as I thought it was. Despite living here for over a year now, I had somehow failed to cross over the road, which I’d assumed was the end of the park. Instead, I was treated to some sort of Chinese/Japanese style water garden full of cherry blossom trees. I’ll have to visit it again in the daytime, but even in the dark the sight was still spectacular. As well as a few lights, lanterns had been hung from the tree branches, dotted all around the park, which helped to give it a kind of glow.

Our group was in this second half of the park, camped underneath a big tree, on a few ¥100 mats. The tree next to ours was even nicer, but it had been reserved! In behaviour similar to the reputedly German trick of spreading towels on sun-loungers (remember that ‘bouncing bombs’ Carling advert?), someone had come earlier that day (or week) and spread a huge load of mats underneath the tree and written their names on them, along with their expected date and time of arrival! Naturally, all the Japanese families were respecting the reservation so this great tree had no-one sitting under it all evening! I think we were too impressed by the forward thinking to sit there ourselves.

Reserving trees is a standard method of guaranteeing a good cherry blossom party. Apparently, in lots of companies, the junior staff member is given a ’special assignment’ this week. This important task is to go to the park, find the best tree and sit underneath it all day, until the head honchos arrive after work. There are even (somewhat apocryphal) rumours of junior workers taking shifts underneath the best trees for days.

I took a load of photos, but most of them are of trees. The problem with taking photos of people at night is that you need them to stay still, and with over 20 people there and enough alcohol for 30, that wasn’t going to happen!

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