Before going to Japan I used to think that all the abundance of cherry blossoms in manga, as well as in Japanese movies and literature, was metaphoric, symbolic, emphatic, or at the least just fictional. For sure it was a little boring sometimes. Where’s the big deal, I used to think, we do have cherry trees in Italy, I saw cherry trees in many countries, the blossoms are pretty, but it’s just a branch here and there, and they are quickly destroyed by rain, frost, heat, or any other expression of cruel spring. Why always talk about cherry trees.
That was before becoming an hanami enthusiast.
The reason why I became an hanami enthusiast just a few days after landing in the country of the Rising Sun is that I realized the abundance of cherry blossoms was not fictional at all, it was real, it was more than real. Actually it was planned, carefully, by the whole population. Japanese people planted a large number of different sorts cherry trees, paying attention to the position, combination, and blossoming time. They took care of them for many years, they preserved them, they helped them grow and live on and be beautiful. Nothing to do with the sad rows of Italian cherry trees, planted in an industrialized fashion, maybe grafted, and heavily pruned to produce more fruits, and cut down as soon as their production is reduced.
In a country that was bombed so heavily during WWII, where the destruction is still so obvious in all the new buildings and streets and everything, it’s a wonder you can still go and visit so many ancient trees. They are blossoming enchantingly for one full month, in carefully designed landscapes of different varieties and colours and shapes, or in the lone beauty of a single tree growing quite wild in the garden of a temple or shrine.
So when Fumiyo Kono titles her impressive work about Hiroshima Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms (here the Italian version), trust her to know what she’s talking about, in a country that was once destroyed, people were able to save some trees, for the future.