Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sakura: All the world is Pink and White

by Suzie Johnson

Cherry blossom time
Showers of pink and white
Small girl is happy

I originally posted this on the Inkwell Inspirations blog in 2010, and wanted to share it again since it's spring, the cherry trees are blooming, and the sun is shining. If you've read it before, I hope you enjoy it again.

When my husband and I were first married, we had two beautiful cherry trees in front of our house. In fact, our entire street was lined with them. It made me feel incredibly lucky because each spring when those trees would bloom and the blossoms would cascade to the soft green grass below, it reminded me of one of the most special times of my childhood.

When the city decided to chop our trees down for a beautification project, I was not happy. How dare they take away something of mine that stirred my heart every time I looked at them? And as for that beautification project? It turned out to be an ugly shoulder between the road and the newly cemented sidewalk where my trees once stood. It didn't help that we had to actually pay for their little project.

However, they could take away my cherry trees but they couldn’t take away my memories. Memories that, each year when the fragile blooms appear, transport me back to Japan, where I lived when I was a little girl.

Living in Japan as a child was a wondrous experience. Origami, Mount Fuji, riding the bullet train, and learning to speak Japanese. White cranes, pagodas, and running through the villages where the incredibly kind market vendors loved me and my friends and would give us Japanese treats. (Thanks Carol for helping my memory burst to life last year with the dried peas and rice cakes!) 

It should be noted that we were expressly forbidden to go to the villages, but my friends and I couldn’t help but sneak off and run through the fields anyway with my baby sister toddling behind. I guess I was a little on the non-compliant side when I was little. My poor mother had a terrible time keeping track of me.

I honestly can’t tell you how old I was, maybe eight years old, when we traveled from Yokusaka to Kamakura for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival where the Japanese people celebrate the beauty of the cherry blossom. Though I really had no idea what to expect, I bounced with anticipation. We had been learning to dance to a song in school called Sakura. The word Sakura refers to the cherry blossom on the Japanese cherry trees. Even after forty years, I can still remember standing in a circle practicing the words and then singing and dancing to the music.

I’m not sure I really knew what to expect at the Festival, or if I even knew what a Cherry Blossom Festival was. But the cherry blossom song was special to me, and that was really all I needed to know. The other source of my excitement: my parents’ friends, Tom and his Japanese wife, Setsu, would be accompanying us that day. Tom was as fun as Setsu was sweet, and they meant the world to me. I simply adored them. Any opportunity to spend time with Setsu was special. Setsu lived in a traditional Japanese house, and I loved it when we went to visit her.

The parade was spectacular. Samurai warriors led the parade, followed by Japanese girls in their kimonos. Dancers in costumes twirled colorful wood and paper umbrellas. The emperor and his wife (or people portraying them) were carried in on separate carriages. I was in awe. But perhaps the most amazing part of the entire day was standing on the cherry-tree-lined street under those wonderful pink and white trees with the occasional petal floating in the air around me.

Setsu, Japan, and blossoming cherry trees are forever tied together in my heart. When I see cherry blossoms I think of Japan and of Setsu, and I’m a little girl again, twirling in the street, dancing to the song about the cherry trees.
I remember being heartbroken when the time came to say goodbye to Tom and Setsu. Whether they moved back to the United States before we did, I don’t remember. I just remember how sad I was when I didn’t see her anymore. But God is so good. Just a few years ago, almost forty years later, I was able to see Setsu again. The years fell away and I was a little girl again, laughing, crying, and hugging my sweet Setsu. My mother, my sister, and Setsu and I had a very blessed time together that day, and I’m so thankful we did, because she passed away not long after that. 

Below are the words to Sakura, as well as the English translation, followed by a You Tube video. You may be surprised to discover you’ve heard the song before. And while it’s as lovely as I remembered, the song doesn’t give credit to the creator of those lovely blossoms and I would be remiss if I didn’t.

Thank you, Lord for these heavenly flowers and the joy they bring to my heart when I see them. And, during this most holy time of year when blossoming flowers of all types remind us that all things are new, thank you for the rebirth, renewal and hope we have in you.

Is there a flower that inspires a special memory for you?


sakura sakura 

no-yama mo sato mo 
mi-watasu kagiri 
kasumi ka kumo ka 
asahi ni niou 
sakura sakura 
sakura sakura 
yayoi no sora wa 
mi-watasu kagiri 
kasumi ka kumo ka 
nioi zo izuru 
iza ya iza ya 
mi ni yukan 

And the English translation:

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms, 

Blanketing the countryside, 
As far as you can see. 
Is it a mist, or clouds? 
Fragrant in the morning sun. 
Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms, 
Flowers in full bloom. 
Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms, 
Across the Spring sky, 
As far as you can see. 
Is it a mist, or clouds? 
Fragrant in the air. 
Come now, come, 
Let's look, at last!

Pictures courtesy of
If the You Tube video below doesn't display for you, and you'd like to hear Sakura, sung and demonstrated with hand motions, you may view it here:


  1. Beautiful, Suzie!

    I am so sorry about your trees. I love walking in the Spring when the trees are blossoming- yesterday I picked a cherry blossom to press in a book!
    Heaven is going to be so beautiful!

  2. Cheryl, hi!

    I wish I had my camera yesterday. I came across some cherry trees in full bloom, surrounded by beds of what looked like pink heather. It was stunning. Yes, Heaven will be unimaginably beautiful.

  3. Seeing your very interesting Blog I wondered if you might be interested in my blog devoted to Christian Historical Romance novels.

    Oh, and I adore cherry blossom trees in all thier glory!

  4. Sussexmaiden, thank you so much for visiting. I'm a little sad that the cherry trees are almost finished blooming. I will definitely visit your blog. I love historical romance.