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Short Stories

The Japanese Sagas (Part 3)
by Kristin K. Trompeter
While Teaching ESL In Aizu, Japan

Cherry Blossoms

Spring is the season of the Cherry Blossom. The Japanese wait all year for this. For them, the bloom is a mythical thing. It is a symbol of their most intimate world; it is how they see themselves. It comes from the time of the samurai. In the book From the Japanese, I read that it is a symbol of the samurai life: pure, beautiful and ephemeral. What does the author want to say with this? The Cherry Blossom served as a perfect metaphor for their existence: the delicate white petals symbolized the purity of their honor. The blossoms tracings of red veins was the blood they were willing to sacrifice for their master. A glorious blossom that lasts only a week or two, dying at the height of its beauty, just like the samurai who, without hesitation, would offer up their life to ensure the honor of their master - their greater good. Both things exemplify for the Japanese people the brilliance of a life well lived almost as a cause of, rather than despite, its brevity.

Well, I also am anxiously awaiting the Cherry Blossoms, but for a totally different reason: they also mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Let me tell you that I am ready to be hot and sweaty instead of wet and cold. Yep, my students now take the time to inform me that Aizu traditionally experiences five months of cold. Five months?! How can I, the thin-skinned queen from sunny Miami end up here? It is craziness, that’s for sure!

So, every day when it is not raining I walk in the castle grounds to see the progress of the Cherry Blossoms. The truth is they are late, late, LATE. People here tell me that this year is very strange, that winter has never lasted this long. I could cry when I hear them say this - how come this year when Ms. Tropical (ME!) is here are they having this terrible weather?!

As of this morning, less than half of the blooms have opened. However, to be quite honest they are as beautiful as everyone told me they would be.

This weekend everyone will be picnicking on the castle grounds, including myself. I will be going with the International Society. It should be interesting as the majority of its members are Korean or Chinese. I feel the language of gestures will probably be the call of the day. No matter, I am sure it will be a day of good food, lots of drink, and beautiful scenery with those glorious cherry blossoms filling the air with scent and color.

The Problem Of Shoes!

So, as everyone knows, you have to take off your shoes when you enter and exit a person’s home, right? Okay, so far. Not my favorite thing to do (BO has nothing on FO=Foot Odor), but I can stomach it.

Now it turns out that at work, when I am giving classes to the little, little kids (2-4 years old), we go into a special room that has those large foam type puzzle pieces on the floor that illustrate the alphabet or numbers from 1-10, or even animals. So as not to damage this, we have to take off our shoes. Again, I’m not that happy about this - yes, I have real foot issues - but at least I can understand why.

Now my boss tells me that at some of the businesses I will also have to take off my shoes! Fine, they give you little foot coverings of paper or plastic, so it is not too bad. But the problem is not this. Suddenly I am checking all my socks and finding out that about half have holes in them and the other half are already almost there with lots of thread-worn patches in them.

Worse of all, is that I know (because this has already been happening) that I am going to forget to check this first thing in the morning BEFORE heading off to work. So I am going to be arriving at Mitsubishi Headquarters and prying off my shoes only to look down and see, if I am lucky, a hole. If I am not lucky, two. Yipes!

So my goal of this weekend is to go on a massive shopping spree for socks. Stripes or solids, what do you all think?

Look for more of Kristin's Japanese Sagas in Boulder City Magazines to come.

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