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

by Just Juan
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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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