I want you to imagine Japan. What comes to mind?
I think you know where this is going.
Because I don’t say this enough, Anime Hajime is based in Osaka. Or, to put it another way, I, LofZOdyssey, am based in Osaka. Although I want to showcase as many writers and commenters as possible, the site will always be where I am. For the foreseeable future, that place is Japan.
A piece of Anime Hajime’s, and, more pointedly, my heart will always be here. Nevertheless, I do not intend to stay forever. Naturally, I plan to keep the site going for as long as possible, regardless of where I call home. Anime is an international medium, after all. Therefore, I don’t see any reason to call it quits simply because I might no longer be in Japan.
However, when that day comes, there will be so much I am going to miss. Among the most painful to lose will be Japan’s famous sakura (cherry blossom) season.
Every year, the arrival of the sakura marks the beginning of spring. Depending on where you are, the flowers may come earlier or later. For Osaka, the last week of March is their sweet zone. But be careful. The sakura do not last long; they are only in full bloom for about a week/week and a half. There will always be a bit of a gamble when buying your plane ticket if you wish to see them.
Since I have been in Japan, I have enjoyed viewing the sakura both in the busy city and in the quiet countryside. But my favorite place to see them has to be at Osaka Castle Park.
I won’t deny my bias in this regard since Osaka Castle is my number one spot to enjoy an afternoon. Hell, many of the anime I have reviewed for this site I watched in this park.
If you were wondering, it was the under this season’s sakura at Osaka Castle that I viewed Attack on Titan Final Season and Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- Season 2 Part2.
So why mention any of this?
Well, the 2021 sakura season hit a little differently this year than it has done in past. It was around sakura season 2020 when the full brunt of COVID-19 hit Japan. Since then, as we all know, daily life has not been normal. That is why I consider myself to be extraordinarily fortunate to have had a place like Osaka Castle Park to escape to.
The property is massive, so there is plenty of room to spread out. And with social distancing rules being a critical step helping to curb the spread of the virus, space is a luxury.
Granted, when quarantine was in full swing, I didn’t go anywhere. Even after the restrictions lifted a bit, it was nerve-racking to be outside. Luckily, I had this lovely massive park smack dab in the middle of my city. Thus, when I could get there safely, I took the opportunities to visit when I could. Once there, and once sufficiently removed from other groups of people, my mask would come off, and for a little while, I could forget that the world was in crisis.
As 2020 turned to summer, then into fall, and then into winter, COVID cases fluctuated throughout Japan – Osaka being one of the major hotspots. Knowing there was a retreat like Osaka Castle Park helped lessen the stress of one hell of a year.
Before I knew it, we had entered 2021, and the sakura had come once again.
Trust me, this time of year has always been beautiful. For 2021, that beauty struck much harder.
I thought I had appreciated the sakura before. I thought I knew just how lucky I am to have access to such an event. But if 2020 taught me anything, it was how many thing I took for granted.
That’s why I made it a point this season to turn off my headphones, look up from my work, and simply listen to the park. Also, it didn’t hurt to have a nice bottle of sake at my side, but I digress.
When I envisioned writing this post, I considered ranting about my frustrations over the Japanese government’s “handling” of the virus (any positives you hear are being told from behind rose-tinted glasses). But as I started to jot down my thoughts, I realized that wasn’t what was important.
Instead, I wanted to express that despite everything that went on last year (and that in many places is still happening), some things don’t go away. When all this is over, if you can, try to make it to Japan and see the sakura for yourself. Who knows; we might end up running into each other.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.