Cherry blossom time! The air was filled with the fragrance of thousands of blooms. The trees draped down over the boulevards with their stunning display. One of the most beautiful times to be in Japan. But that’s not what my Japanese friends were excited about. They couldn’t wait for hanami—time to party.
I threw on a sweater and raced out the door to the station and the express train to Shinjuku park. My friends Midori and Keiko were throwing a party under the cherry trees—a tradition in Japan. They had slept over night in the park to make sure they reserved the perfect spot.
Walking through the park filled with over a thousand cherry trees bursting with blossoms, I wondered if I would ever find them. Keiko promised to wear her horrible day-glow orange sweater so I could spot her in the crowd. But after twenty minutes of walking around the grounds, not one day-glow orange sighting. My hopes of a wonderful picnic lunch under the cherry trees grew dim.
My stomach screamed for food and I seriously considered a stop to get something to eat at one of the endless street vendors. Then I saw the familiar horrible sweater jumping up and down next to a spectacular tree. “Anne, over here.”
Midori sat on a bright blue sheet like most of the other people in the park. The sheet, peppered in blossoms, was covered with small plates of wonderful delicacies. She motioned for me to sit down next to her. “You must be starving.”
“How can you tell?”
“Because your stomach is talking.”
Keiko sat down next to me. “Your stomach is so loud it’s making the cherry blossoms fall off the tree.”
The petals trickled down from the branches like rain. But I doubted my hunger had anything to do with it. “Very funny.” I cruised the various plates laid out in front of me. “Wow, you guys really went all out.”
Midori fixed me a plate piled high with shrimp, pickled vegetables and a rice ball. “Only the best food will complement the flowers.”
Keiko held up a bottle of sake. “And drink.”
I noticed an empty bottle next to her foot. “Looks like the party already started.”
She covered her mouth and giggled. “It’s tradition. Plus the flowers look brighter.”
I gave her a smile. “I’ll bet.”
Midori handed me the loaded down plate. “Eat up.”
I didn’t need any prompting. Chopsticks in hand, I quickly downed the entire plate full of food and washed it down with a cup of sake. I rubbed my belly. “Everything was delicious. What’s for dessert?”
A strong wind whipped through the trees. In no time we were covered with petals. Opening my mouth to speak a clump fell in. I chewed the petals and washed them down with a cup of sake.
I smiled at the girls. “What a novel dessert! Cherry blossoms aren’t just beautiful, they taste good too.“