Once a year all over Japan, Nature likes to remind us all of its ability to create simple, transcendent beauty. It follows this with a much more bittersweet lesson; the impossibility of holding on to anything so wonderful.
Come every April the cherry trees blossom, turning the entire nation into a cotton-candy colored paradise. Almost immediately, the petals start to flutter down, covering the ground in a pale pink carpet. In less than two weeks, hardly a trace remains. It might have all been an illusion, save for the piles of empty beer cans that mark the now-abandoned hanami (花見) spots.
There's a lesson to be learned here, I'm sure. Something about the transience of beauty or youth or love or beer. Something that might even be at the very center of Japanese culture and the way the people here see themselves. Good thing I'm an idealistic westerner and can always go in for teeth whitening and cosmetic surgery.