Welcome back! If you are just joining me now, the beginning of the story outlining my recent trip to Japan with my Dad can be found here.
The first leg of our Japanese adventure had us heading to Hiroshima, where we would pack two days with all the sightseeing and atmosphere we could before moving on to our next destination. We checked into our backpacker accommodation and after a quick refresh, hit the pavement and headed straight towards our primary point of interest – the Hiroshima Peace Park. We made our way along the streets at a leisurely pace, taking in the new surroundings with curiosity and, at least for me, a slightly heavy heart given the city’s history.
Even so, it was Spring and we were intent on enjoying ourselves as much as possible. Our feet carried us towards the park and Dad and I chatted randomly – about what we were seeing around us, about what we would do once we arrived amongst other things. As we crossed bridges, wove through the streets and finally turned towards the park we were met initially by the Peace Dome; standing stark on a slightly overcast day, presenting the visage of a broken down but stalwart structure, something that I have always viewed as a physical representation of the spirit of the Japanese – and indeed all of humanity.
Dad had bought a new, large memory card for his camera and intended to fill it. Today, however, was a most unfortunate day for him in this regard. When the camera didn’t turn on he noted that the battery was flat and proceeded to curse technology for its insufferable unreliability. His anger was quickly abated though as I offered my own camera for his use and we found ourselves in awe of the Park and the Peace Dome. After taking some pictures of the Dome and contemplating the deeper thoughts that naturally flow in such an environment, we made our way along the bank of the canal that passes through the park and noticed that we were also in time for the blossoming of the Sakura trees!
I’m not sure about how my Dad felt but I found myself growing more positive with every step. It seemed as though a festival was taking place, although without the kind of carnival rides and sideshow attractions that I am used to seeing at many similar events here at home. Banners and stalls greeted all park visitors at the main bridge, with hot foods and cold drinks available to enjoy as you wandered the park or simply sat beneath the cherry blossom trees to converse with friends or just take some time out.
As we crossed the bridge, the vendors hoped to lure us in with the deliciously tempting aromas of their wares but we weren’t sure we were ready to eat just yet. Reaching the other side of the bridge, we were met by two handsome young men wheeling a small blue cart loaded with food that they were determined to sell to all who passed. As one of the pair stood by the cart, the other jumped out at us with one of the largest smiles I’ve ever seen and proceeded to shout “Hello! Do you speak English?”
I couldn’t simply walk past this guy. For one thing, his energetic and friendly approach gave me pause on its own and for another, he had grabbed my hand in a firm handshake and he wouldn’t let go.
“Where are you from?” he asked, and I answered “We’re from Australia.”
“Australia, really?” he responded excitedly, “Such a beautiful place is Australia. Would you like to try our delicious sakura dumplings? You really must, they are only made for this season!”
With that, he guided us closer to his cart and his companion opened it up, allowing him to extract a small plastic tray with three rice dumplings perfectly presented on it.
“They are sakura – cherry blossom flavoured rice cakes, you will enjoy them.” The young man promised. “They are only made during this season, so you must try them.”
How could we refuse? A seasonal sweet that we may not get the chance to eat again, there was no discussion necessary. We bought a tray from the vendors, made our thank-yous and carried on. We found a place to sit amongst the many people who were absorbed in the simple pleasure of good company and beautiful blossoms and we tasted our treats. Sadly I couldn’t eat a whole one, I got halfway through mine before the conflict with my taste buds was ended. Dad, on the other hand, liked them so much that he ate both his and mine and held onto the remaining one for later.
With our bellies slightly full and our happiness tanks even fuller, we walked the Park for a while longer and finding ourselves quietly embraced by the positivity and pleasure of life that the Sakura blossoms had sown amongst all those who had come just to be part of the moment. I can only hope that you all experience something very similar very often; whether it comes from flowers, people or something entirely different.