Flashback Friday Moment of The Week: 3/28/2014

by Just Juan

So it’s officially spring and the month of March is rolling out. Around this time, in my home away from home, the cherry blossoms are typically in full bloom.

How I first came across this moment? The experience of seeing cherry blossom trees for the first time in 2008 was one of the best memories from my residency in Tokyo. I was in complete awe of the picturesque beauty they presented. Just walking around Yokota Air Base and the Fussa community that year, I was in amazement. I topped that the next year, when I ventured down to Ueno Park. After experiencing the sights and sounds of the Sakura Festival in one of the city’s famous parks, I thought to myself: what better spot can there be to see the cherry blossoms? I honestly didn’t think there was one. I was wrong. In March 2010, I started a month-long photography class at the Yokota Air Base Arts & Crafts Center as part of an effort to get more acquainted with my Nikon D90, which I had acquired in October 2009. Having seen my picture-taking talent improve exponentially over the first 2 weeks, I sought out to get the best picture of the Japanese cherry blossoms that I could possibly get. As the trees around the Greater Tokyo Area were entering the final phase of their blooming, I ventured to almost every area of the city, looking for a place that provided the best photo opportunity…a place that wasn’t high traffic. I happened to be on the Yamanote Line and we passed by Gotanda Station and as I looked out of the window, I saw a river in the distance with trees in abundance. After some research, I found out that the river in question was the Meguro River. And after asking one of my Japanese co-workers about that area, I was told to check out the sights in the vicinity of Naka-Meguro Station. And that’s exactly what I did.

What it meant to me then? The blossoms bloomed late that season as we had a late winter storm that slowed the process. On April 2, 2010, I ventured deep into the city into Meguro and found the spot my co-worker told me about. Once I stepped out of Naka-Meguro Station, I was marveled by what I saw. The way the trees hung over the river was reminiscent of the way those azalea trees hovered over the streets back in Valdosta, Georgia. Before I could even fire up the Nikon D90, I just stood there…taking it all in. Part of that was because in a month’s time, I was leaving Tokyo to return back to the United States and this was one of my last great moments in the city. Part of it was because I found myself in a spot where I was experiencing something I shouldn’t experience alone, if you catch my drift. I ended taking about 72 pictures and I filmed a video.

What it means to me now? That moment in April 2010, nothing really compares to it. I made my return to the Meguro River last year during an impromptu weekend trip to Tokyo and it was still a beautiful sight. But that fizzle, that magic, that excitement I felt on that day in April 2010 is unmatched. The scene was just right for me…picturesque with fantastic sight lines, top-notch natural light, a relatively light crowd. I attended the National Cherry Blossom Festival in 2011 and 2012 during my residency in the DC area and I was turned off by the crowds along the Tidal Basin. I longed for the Tokyo experience, where every 3rd tree was a cherry blossom tree. I typically don’t make international trips in the spring but I may have to make an exception in 2015…to get back to the Meguro River.

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