Spring in Japan is both beautiful and deeply saddening. There are new beginnings and also bitter farewells. There are the more obvious changes, like the blooming flowers and the warming weather, but a lot more happens in March and April than a shift in the season.
The fiscal year ends and begins during spring, so people leave their jobs and move on to new ones. This usually means transferring to a different branch or office within the same company, but it can be really sad. Office dynamics are momentarily thrown off as your friends leave and new people come in. And, naturally, there are a few sending off parties (送別会ーsoubetsukai), and welcoming parties (歓迎会ーkangeikai), and parties that are both for sending off and welcoming (歓送迎会). A few good teachers from my schools and staff members from my BOE have left me! I’ve even had some ALT friends leave. I know it happens here and in life in general, but when people move away, it makes you realize how fleeting everything around you is. I can meet awesome people and enjoy their company and all that, but they won’t be around forever. It’s so depressing! But with goodbyes come hello’s! I haven’t experienced a lot of the welcoming part yet, but I know it’s going to be awkward jikoshoukai (self-intro) central all over again. Probably the best part of all this is that all of the new teachers and employees in the city have to come to the BOE to introduce themselves (and the ones leaving had to say goodbye). In America, this would be so laid back; you’d shake some hands, hear a little about their backgrounds and they’d be on their way. In Japan, all the old staff (or new, depending) stand at the front of the office (which is one big open room with desks lined up in little groups), introduce themselves and give little speeches. I, who had no idea this is what would happen during my spring office days, literally stood, bowed, bowed some more, clapped, and sat down on repeat all day for a week! I didn’t even know most of those people.
The weather and new growth of the spring season makes up for the sad parting though. Spring is cherry blossom season in Japan, and with that comes opportunities to meet people and make new connections. These chance meetings are often called 出会い (deai), and apparently this is the time of the year to make lots of them. The first weekend of school spring break, I went to Fukuoka with a friend for some shopping and relaxation. We spent the first day bouncing around the various malls and shopping centers in the city, then we ate Mexican food at a rather authentic restaurant and headed off to downtown Fukuoka for some drinking and dancing. Fukuoka isn’t known for it’s raging dance club scene, but we managed to find a decent spot. The best part is that we stayed up to the next train in the morning. How? I don’t know. But MacDonald’s probably helped a bit. Oh, and the craziness of people at night in that city. Guess how many people asked me if I was half (as in half Japanese)? More than should have. Granted, I refused to talk to some people in English, because it’s fun to mess with drunk people, but still. I’m pretty white, I’d say. It was entertaining though.
The next day we met up with Yukina’s friend’s family. We had a wonderful dinner as is expected from a Japanese family, and I went to bed super early because of the lack of sleep from the night before. The next day we went to CostCo, and spent lunch time eating pizza under sakura (桜). Sakura are beautiful, gorgeous, all of those adjectives. The way the petals flutter down so delicately when a gust of wind blows in, the soft pink glow they emit, completely beautiful. Every year, people look forward to these trees blossoms, they have picnics and barbeques under the branches, enjoy their friendships and look forward to what’s to come. Unfortunately, because of the unnaturally warm weather, the sakura came and went too quickly. Is this a sign?! I’m not sure, but I can tell you that this past winter was not warm, at least not to Texas standards. Just sayin’.
In addition to all of that, the new school year has started! I don’t know how it’s going to be yet because actual classes have yet to begin, but I’m excited for that! I’ve been in Japan over six months, and it is admittedly hard at times. I’m living alone for the first time in my life, in a foreign country no less. So when I’m feeling down, I think of the sakura, and tulips, and the approaching summer heat, and wonder what’s to come. I am always afraid for the future, but hopeful. I don’t have a choice really, not with all those crazy new kids coming from the elementary schools! Seriously, this year’s going to be interesting…