I put on my white Adidas shoes as this is the only pair of sneakers that goes fashionably well with skirts, dresses, and suits. I hurriedly went down the stairs of my apartment trying to make it to the main street before the school hymn of the nearby school came to an end. It’s normally my cue to leave the apartment already or else I’d be late for work.
My workplace is a 30-minute walk from my apartment. I’ve been walking to school for more than a year already, so I usually make it one or two minutes before my log-in time. And that includes grabbing lunch and snacks in the supermarket next to my workplace. My apartment is situated uphill and my workplace is located in another uphill ground. It’s like going from one valley to another valley. On regular weekdays, I walk a total of almost 5 kilometers. I’ve walked in different seasons and I’ve realized that the different seasons play a big part on what I feel and what I think while walking.
Summer is unforgiving. The heat is intense and the wind does not even let its presence be known. I start to pity myself. My upper clothing is drenched in sweat. And because of that, I usually bring a towel and an extra blouse. There seems to be no point wearing make-up. By the time I arrive in the workplace, I look as if I’d just completed a morning workout. My hair is messy, which is enough to be stressed out for the day. Walking in summer feels like never ending especially if it’s an upward slope. Every turn I take, I would wish it were the last. And in every step, I’d repeatedly question why I placed myself in this situation.
Autumn is the beginning. I’d like to think of autumn as the start of good things to come. It’s much more comfortable walking in autumn. It is when the feel of the cold temperature seems so much more inviting. The color of the autumn leaves is striking—- may it be yellow, red, or orange. There is a gingko tree with dark yellow leaves alongside the street I pass by. I used to hate that tree not knowing what it was because its fruits would fall all over the ground and smell so bad. Sometimes I would see its owner cleaning up the ground with a broom and I used to pity her. It made me wonder why she would go through the hassle of sweeping the ground early in the morning. Sometimes she’d collect a total of four garbage bags full of rotten fruits. I didn’t understand then that that tree is like a shining star in the autumn daylight.
Winter is depressing and lonely. That’s when all the dark thoughts occupy the mind. It’s five in the afternoon and the light has retired early. I shiver in cold as I walk my way uphill with nobody in sight. Sometimes I daydream I am in the setting of M. Night Shyamalan’s chiller movie The Village. On rare occasions, I see some students on their way home. It sometimes boggles me how the female high school students can manage the cold in their mini skirt uniform whereas I, completely bundled up in my coat, scarf and gloves, can still feel the biting cold. But if I’d have to choose, I’d pick winter over summer because I still look exactly the same as when I leave the apartment—- make-up intact and strands of hair still in place.
Spring is salvation. The light after the dark. It’s the season that constantly makes me want to freeze time even just for a minute, so I could appreciate the beauty of cherry blossom trees that line the street. There are times when the wind would blow and the cherry blossom petals would rain on me. And in my mind I’d be doing a twirl in my cute dress. Or sometimes I wish someone would film me in slow motion as I gaze up completely amazed at the falling white pinkish petals. But, nope. None of that as I need to hurriedly get to the workplace. But my hopes are still high as I know there are two more blossom trees on the way. It’s only in spring when I wish that the traffic lights would remain red, so I could enjoy the view of the cherry blossom tree standing near the stop lights. And as I completely enter the compound of my workplace, another cherry blossom tree lifts my mood up.
Walking throughout the four seasons allows me to think of different things. It’s not just a routine to reach my destination. It’s a process that allows me to talk to myself and solve my worries. Sometimes I’d go home filled with problems that only people living abroad would face. In the whole 30-minute walk, I’m usually able to analyze the why’s and how’s of my situation. By the time I reach home, the negative thoughts don’t linger anymore. Walking is an invisible friend. It’s solitary, yet, it brings me solace.
“This weekend is the best time to see the cherry blossoms,” mentioned the woman I work with. It might be true but I wasn’t planning to have my hanami on said weekend because I had a dental appointment. Come Saturday, I was patiently waiting for my teeth to be examined when the dentist assistant engaged me in a chitchat. “Today is the best time to see the cherry blossoms,” she said cheerfully. Two Japanese women randomly telling me that that Saturday was the perfect time to see the cherry blossoms made me decide to finally go to Yamizakigawa River: the best viewing spot in Aichi prefecture.
It was the first weekend of April. Most people probably scheduled their hanami on that day if I base it on the number of people around. It was rainy the day prior to that and the days after which made it the perfect day. It was a sunny spring day so I didn’t have to wear my long coat. It was a comfortable long walk because the sun’s heat was not intense. This is my second time to live in Japan and also my second time to experience spring.
Since my arrival in August of last year, I started having a deep fascination with flowers. Cherry Blossom, being the most beautiful and beloved in this country, is always a must-see. The sight of just one or two trees is not enough for ne anymore as I always spot them on my way to work every week. Thus, I longed to see a hundred of them in a park or lining a river. Yamazakigawa is a perfect choice and a recommended spot in most of my online searches.
I reached the subway station but since it’s still a 10-minute walk, my problem started to arise. I didn’t know which way to go so I just followed the direction where most people went. Unfortunately, almost ten minutes had passed but there was still no sign of cherry blossoms. That was when I finally decided to use google map to bring me to Nagoya Women’s University which is near the river. When I reached Nagoya University, I saw many people going in one direction so I just started following them. Lines of cherry blossoms can also be found along the road. By the time I saw a bridge, I knew that I found the Yamazakigawa River.
I went to Yamazakigawa with the intention of photographing only the beauty of the place. When I include myself into the picture, I usually become a little stressed because I tend to focus on getting a good angle for my portrait. But on that rare day, my mind was just on the cherry blossoms. I walked the long kilometer of the riverside. The place was packed with people. It amuses me how the Japanese celebrate hanami. I saw people with their family, friends, and partners eating lunch or having snacks under the cherry blossom trees. Because it was too crowded, I think some of them didn’t mind at all even if they weren’t able to set-up a plastic blanket on the ground for their hanami. Some brought a cooler and even had wine. Some had bento boxes which were probably bought from a convenience store on their way to the river. There were also two or three small vans selling street food. Although there weren’t a lot, the restaurants near the area were also full.
I was glad I did go on that particular day. Thanks to the two Japanese women who unconsciously prodded me. The cherry blossoms were at their best. The rain partnered with the strong wind of the succeeding days would have hastened the falling of the petals. Ymazakigawa River, undeniably, had the most number of cherry blossom trees that I’ve seen in my region so far.