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[Random Thought] Cherry blossom and `sakura`

Posted April. 18, 2001 15:24,   


In the midst of the season of cherry blossoms, I remember a phrase by the poet Han Ha-Un: ``Cherry blossoms bloom/cherry blossoms fall/like large snowflakes, they fly and are laid.`` A deep breath under the splendidly emerging cherry blossoms makes me even dizzy. The late woman novelist Sohn So-Hee wrote: ``Cherry blossoms have something that makes us feel dizzy. That comes like a sort of thirst. Cherry blossoms like clouds and haze have a spell to heat and vaporize the spring and youth from our lives.``

The fields and mountains are soaked with the light of the spring and the yellow golden bells, red azaleas and white cherry blossoms are in full bloom there. In this way, the spring prepares the coming of summer with the flowers. But cherry blossoms all alone bring me another notion. Mountains are mountains, and flowers are flowers. However, cherry blossoms remind me of ``sakura,`` so Japan, because the Japanese love this flower with a craze. They praise cherry blossoms that fall down in a multitude at once after having dyed the spring for a moment as the flower of ``samurai`` spirit.

The word ``human bomb,`` a rocket booster that poured down to U.S. destroyers during World War II, was sakura. This formidable weapon of the emperor`s country is being displayed at the Yasukuni Jinja. Albums of pictures with cherry blossoms as background are sold here. Displayed in the Japanese shrine are mostly mortuary tablets of the Pacific War dead. Therefore, the shrine is like a place to cherish the memory of the war criminals in the eyes of Korea, China and the United States. Sakura bloom in the shrine as the flower of the emperor`s country that is more popular than the state flower, chrysanthemum. So sakura, not cherry blossoms, are a horrible bloody color.

In the Japanese language dictionary, there is another entry for sakura besides the flower. Sakura also means a cat`s paw of peddlers or a group of mobilized persons in disguise of pure audience. This word is the origin of sakura that appears in the history of our opposition parties, meaning ``double dealer.`` Without exception, it also has a negative image. As a result, my notion coming from cherry blossoms was confused. The distorted Japanese history textbook for middle school has not been corrected yet. Visitors to worship at the Yasukuni shrine make long queues, and candidates for prime minister pledge to pay homage at the shrine one after another in a desperate bid to woo support. Sakura`s image of bloody attack makes us feel gloomy. We`d like to enjoy cherry blossoms as just flowers and have Japan as a good neighbor.

Kim Choong-Seek seescheme@donga.com