The Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival.

By, Uwe Paschen.
The Japanese Cherry Blossom festivals.
 In Japan, the Cherry blossom has a very particular and important meaning since the cherry tree is botanically a native of the Japanese Isles.
From an early period, it has been the national tree of Japan. Since the Man’yoshu, the earliest anthology of Japanese poems and songs (7th-9th cent.), down to the present day, the cherry tree has exerted on the Japanese psyche an almost mystical fascination. Most of today’s festivals traditions and poetry started in the Heian Period (794–1191), where poems such as Princess Shokushinnai Shinno – Private Anthology


Cherry blossom Festival, Narita, Chiba,  Japan. | Photo 02
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Narita, Chiba,  Japan. | Photo 02
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Narita, Chiba,  Japan. | Photo 03
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Narita, Chiba,  Japan. | Photo 04
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Narita, Chiba,  Japan. | Photo 05
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Narita, Chiba,  Japan. | Photo 06
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Narita, Chiba,  Japan. | Photo 07
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Narita, Chiba,  Japan.
  • Narita, Chiba, Japan, Spring 2009, Cherry Blossom. | Photo 02
  • Narita, Chiba, Japan, Spring 2009, Cherry Blossom. | Photo 03
  • Narita, Chiba, Japan, Spring 2009, Cherry Blossom. | Photo 04
  • Narita, Chiba, Japan, Spring 2009, Cherry Blossom. | Photo 05
  • Narita, Chiba, Japan, Spring 2009, Cherry Blossom. | Photo 06
  • Narita, Chiba, Japan, Spring 2009, Cherry Blossom.
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 02
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 03
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 04
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 05
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 06
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 07
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 08
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan.
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 09
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 10
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 11
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 12
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 13
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 14
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 15
“waga iado no   izureno mine no   no hana naran / seki iru taki to   ochite kuru kana are famous."
 "(from what lofty heights
      "come so many blossoms to my hut?
      first as if held back – then,
      unforeseen, this sudden cascade!)”
 Yet, one of the greatest poet was probably Saigyo a Japanese Buddhist priest-poet, one of the greatest masters of the tanka (a traditional Japanese poetic form), whose life and works became the subject matter of many narratives, plays, and puppet dramas. He originally followed his father in a military career, but, like others of his day, he was oppressed by the sense of disaster that overwhelmed Japan as the brilliant imperial court life of the Heian era passed into a period of civil wars in the latter half of the 12th century.
One of his greatest poems still honored today and that most Japanese may know by heard is about the cherry blossom.
“ negawaku wa, hana no motonite haru shinamu, sono kisaragi no mochizuki no koro."

"I pray that I might die beneath the cherry flowers in spring, in the month of February (by the lunar calendar) when the moon is full.”
 Here in Narita as else where in Japan we celebrate our Cherry blossom season as well. Where our temple is, as well as around the City hall, Schools and private houses, all are  surrounded by many Cherry trees now in full bloom.
Giving the eye a feast of natural beauty and harmony.
This season is as a master painting of combining nature’s beauty, seasons, colours and human ingenuity in trying to reflect that beauty in its architectures and temples.
 Some, that have the luxuries of time and financial independence will follow the Cherry blossoms through out Japan going from one festival to the next starting in the southern Islands of Kumejima followed by Odaiba, Sado and ending all the way North on Okushiri Island.
 The list of places and Islands is rather long, other then the five main Islands, with in each are  many places worth visiting in the Cherry blossom season as well as in other seasons.
 For us here the first festival in Chiba took place at the end of March in Tateyama, followed by Narita today wish will be followed for us by Nikko, (named a World heritage site by the UN) in two weeks.
 An almost two most long festivity since Japan is blessed with five climate zones, from the most Northern Island to the most Southern Island. Making the Cherry blossom trail a real adventure of sorts and a dream for many to look forward to undertake one day.

Could Japan become a beacon for the World to follow?


A title here is required | Photo 876
By, Uwe Paschen.
Is Japan’s change to be a beacon for a World to follow or merely an Isolated move by one bold Nation defying a super power?
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and his Party (DPJ) won a historic election in August here in Japan, in part because he called for a review of the 2006 Japanese- U.S. Military agreement. Four DPJ members from Okinawa won parliamentary seats with promises of reducing and even eliminating the U.S. troop presence on the island. 

Denny Tamaki is one of Okinawa's parliament ministers. He says they won because voters believed they could achieve what the previous administration could not. That includes resolving the issue of U.S. military bases in Okinawa. Tamaki wants Futenma's marines and training facilities off the island altogether. In addition, polls show his constituents overwhelmingly support that view.
In a recent poll by one of Japan's national newspapers, nearly 70 percent of Okinawans said they opposed moving Futenma to another part of the island. The same percentage think Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama should negotiate with the U.S. to move Futenma out of the prefecture and the country altogether.

Japan may want the U.S. bases out and stop collaborating with U.S. military endeavours. Japan does however not want to escape its international responsibilities. "Our contribution to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan is great and will increase" as Mr. Fujisaki said, “Yes, We have been number two in the world for reconstructions of Iraq. Number one being United States, of course. In Afghan we are number three.”
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has said he wants the U.S. bases to be moved off Okinawa, even out of Japan altogether
Japan's defence minister Mr. Toshimi Kitazawa said Thursday last, that rules governing the U.S. troop presence on Okinawa Island were “humiliating” For Japan. He further stated that “to build a new relationship that meets the requirements of the new era instead of getting mired in fears of offending them,”
The Minister also announced that Japan will cancel the purchase of U.S. Military Jets, specifically the F-35 and look for suppliers out side the U.S. as he said "our choice is wide open to other options, of non-American-made jets.”
Japan’s taxpayers fell that they should no longer have to neither pay for the U.S. bases nor tolerate the U.S. presence that has been continuously increasing in cost since 1948.
Kiroku Hanai, a former editorial writer for a vernacular newspaper, writes that Japan has to stop paying for the U.S. military and force the U.S. to withdraw and close all U.S. bases on Japanese soil.
"Japan is not ashamed of its Pacifistic constitution and its desire to hold on to it."
"Policing the World is not a task for the U.S. or any other supper power, but rather for a strong U.N." Mr. Hatoyama said. He did also evoke that war was not the anther to our international conflicts. 
“My grandfather Ichiro, then Prime Minister, was an advocate of the concept of yu-ai, or "fraternity". This yu-ai is a way of thinking that respects one's own freedom and individual dignity while also respecting the freedom and individual dignity of Others. “
Japan is most definitely moving in a new direction whose signs are clearly laid out by stopping all Military collaboration with the U.S. refueling program and moving the money saved in those military program into Humanitarian aid instead.
Further Japan has send out a clear message to the U.S. and other Western Nations as Japan’s foreign Minister said in October that “Tokyo's new way of contributing to the effort in Afghanistan will be in the form of humanitarian aid, which will include training former Taliban soldiers.”
Japan's new government has vowed to pursue a foreign policy independent of the U.S. and it is clear by now that this is well under way and to be a new reality that may force the U.S. to rethink their own political future that lately seems to look a lot like the former U.S.S.R. once did in 1989.
Ironically, the U.S.S.R. back then was struck by a major economic crisis, a never-ending war in Afghanistan and blessed with a President that received the Nobel peace price.
Japan has send the message, laud and clear, the question remaining, is whether the U.S. will hear it and understand it in time.
So far the U.S. have first mocked the changes in Japan, as the changes seemed to prevail though and proved to be real. The U.S. tried threats as well as fear mongering. Wish started with economic pressures, with Statements such as, 'Japan should align it self with its biggest trading partner', namely the U.S., 'if it wanted to remain part of the top producers', to wish Japan responded with diversification and new trade talks with China and other Asian and European partners.
Then came the North Korean card and fear mongering to wish Japan responded equally elegantly by insisting on continued six party negotiations rather then more confrontation.
The time for supper powers seems to be over and a new era has begun, one whose course is not yet fully shaped. Should we be wise or arrogant  will determine this era’s outcome.
Lets hope we find wisdom and move towards peace and co-operation rather them another power struggle for supremacy.
Japan has chosen peace and co-operation as well as the preservation of our Environment over power and dominance.


Tokyo's greatest shame.


Tokyo's greatest shame. | Photo 02
By, Uwe Paschen.
 Tokyo is one of the greatest cities on this planet with some of the best museums, parks and attraction one can imagine, it also has one of the World best universities; an impressive infrastructure and maybe even the best public transport system one could desire.
However, it does also have a great shame that it tries to hide by simply ignoring it.
Today, Tokyo is counting over 5000 homeless according to the NGO's, the government believes them to be between 4000 to 5000 though. A number that has been on the rise since the late 70th and that is increasing at an alarming rate since the World’s latest financial fiasco that started with the Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy in New York.
Japan has been ruled for over two generations almost continuusly since WWII by the LDP or Jimintō (自民党), wish is a conservative party that was last lead by Taro Aso.
Aso and his party where deffeted last August 30th with a land slide by the Democratic Party or 民主党 Minshutō wish is a Social Democratic Party   lead by Yukio Hatoyama, our new Prime Minister.
Yukio Hatoyama has addressed a great number of problems that Japan is confronted with and promised reforms in his election campaign, those, he seems to carry out so far. Never the less, there is one issue he is avoiding with as much determination as did Taro Aso and all their predecessors, wish would be the questions of the Homeless and Unemployed that Japan is being faced with.
Those ever increasing numbers of Homeless and unemployed are only slowed down by the high Suicide rate that Japan knows.
Not unlike in other countries of the industrial world, in Japan, being Unemployed or Homeless is a great shame. One that no one wants to be confronted with for it would mean disgrace and categorize one as lazy and worth in the eyes of Japan’s society and even with once own family and friends. Only in Japan a homeless person is truly ignored by the masses at large.
Why, the homeless are left on their own with out help from the government or the public at large. Few are those that volunteer to help those in need and organize soup kitchens for them or closing. We have about 20 NGO working with the Homeless and the unemployed here in Tokyo and surrounding areas, trying to provide meals and shelters. Those NGO's receive about 90 per cent of their revenue in form of donations from abroad. The aid given by the NGO's is often undermined by the “Guardian Angels”, a paramilitary group of sorts, that is closed in combat pants, boots and military like beret. They are patrolling the streets to keep order and cleanliness on behalf of the "good" citizens and businesses that support them. Those “Guardians” give the NGO’s much grief at times, for they do not want to see those NGO's setting up in their part of town to help the homeless. Ironically, the NGO’s best ally against the "Guardians" are the Yakuza’s also known as gokudō (極道), they do provide a social function along their better know other activities. Of course one does try to stay away from the Yakuza, still every now and then they are the only thing that stands between being able to help the homeless or being hindered by the "Guardians" to do so.
Other groups helping the homeless are off course religious institutions, such as the Christian or Muslim organizations. Those however, have some strings attached to their help, and this in the form of prayers and/or converting to their books, wish does not go over to well in a predominately Buddhist country. Never the less, many driven by hunger and despair will put up with it and temporary convert or recite a prayer for the sake of a meal.
The benefit of the NGO’s is that they do not ask anyone to convert, nor plead once legion to them or their cause. Maybe, why those are better liked and more credible.
The question on many minds is whether or not the new government will come to the aid of the homeless and the unemployed as well as the temp workers that live from one short term contract to the next and in constant fear that they may end up having to live on the streets them self sooner or latter.
Once cough in the vicious cycle it is next to impossible to get back out again, especially as a male. Woman are still helped by their families and friends and are not seen as failures or lazy if they end up in trouble as their male counterparts are. Over 98 percent of homeless are men, making Woman rather the rare exception of the homeless in Tokyo.
In Japan, one needs to have an address in order to seek employment. The trouble is that in order to have an address one needs employment, since any apartment does need to be paid for and rent is far from affordable in Tokyo, a single room/flat, with no more then 20 scare metre, starts at 50,000.00 Yen per month and that would be cheep and only available in the periphery of Tokyo. Once the utilities paid, it usually ends up being more like 70,000.00 yen per month wish equates to $850.00.
Politics and populace do hardly notice the homeless though and this may be part of their trouble. Japan’s homeless are rather quiet and deeply ashamed of them self and their condition, they try desperately to hide their struggle and do what ever they can to appear “normal”, well closed, clean shaved and you will never see any of them beg or ask for help.
They are the shame of Tokyo and they are ignored by all including them self.
The only thing that gives them away is the bag and the blue tarp that they never let go off and carry with them wherever they may go.
In recent years the only once that did protest this condition and tried to organize in order to change It, where the Freitar (See link bellow). Japans, 15 to 45 year old that are mainly temp workers. The Freitars being the temp workers, the unemployed or even those living on the verge of being homeless. Still holding on though, by taking refuge in the Internet Cafés, those cafes offers them a mattress, some resources and access to a computer for networking. All this for 1,000.00 yen per 24 hour ($12.00), this is their last chance to get out before ending up on the streets of Tokyo and facing the Guardians or the Police telling them to vacate the area.
Japans elite and Government are deeply concerned with birth rates, especially in light of having an aging population that by 2015 will translate into 25 percent of people being over 65 years old and by 2050 Japan will be left with 90 Million Citizen from the 127 millions it counts today. A disaster in the making that even new immigration policies wont be able to counter any longer.
The dilemma of the low birth rates is directly related to the homeless crises, wish is being ignored with so much determination.
A lack of social housing, a lack of support and a lack organizations, to help those in need to get back on their feet. Translating into a population that can not afford to have children, since they have no stable employment, this in spite of being highly qualified in many cases. Nor can they afford the existing rates for apartments in Tokyo and even food is extremely expensive to the point that many cannot eat more then a boll of plane rice even though they have a job. Many walls will have to fall before they may be any hope for Japans homeless and its youth. So far even our Social Democratic government has not addressed those issues nor made the connection between all those troubles we are being faced with here in the land of rising Sun.


The Shinjuku Homeless

sourced by mbaumgartner