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The Ambassador's Essay- "Sakura"

March, 2015
Makio Miyagawa

In an old temple 

A bell is voiceless

Myriads of cherry-flower petals swirl in the spring breeze

This is a piece of haiku, an epigrammatic Japanese verse form of three short lines, depicting the beauty of
sakura flowers. For centuries, this flower has appealed and stimulated the aesthetic senses of artists-poets
,writer, musicians, and painters.

Back in our home nation, the spring is just around the corner again this year. The seasons never fail to rotate.
Buds of this flower have begun blooming, heralding the arrival of spring. After having stood up to a long and
severe wintry months, we welcome the end of the hardships, and rejoice together this happy passing moment
No other time in a year is, therefore, more appropriate for graduation ceremonies at schools and universities. Hence, our acedemic year
ends in March and commences in April, lauding efforts and perseverance and celebrating advancement to higher stages. So does our
budgetary year, out of the similar thoughts and wishes.

Early in March, denuded branches swiftly shoot out thousands of solid buds in the cold wind. Gradually do those buds swell and start
blooming one after another. Soon the whole tree is blanketed with tens of thousands of pale pink and white flowers. The tree looks as if it
were covered with snow against the blue sky. A clustered cherry trees at the foot of mountains look as though a patch of cloud were drifting
along. If illuminated by bonfire in the darkness, the flowers create a natural pavilion for evening receptions. And the flowers fall within days,
prompted by rain and wind, though not cold any longer. Flowers are then to be replaced by fresh young leaves which come out.

As the Ambassador of Japan in Malaysia, I am delighted to note that many Malaysians now visit Japan to admire the beauty of sakura
flowers. One of the features of sakura flowers is, as well known, very short blooming period, about a week in average or, at the longest,
10 days, as well as the simultaneity of the time of bloom in one region. The flowers come out almost at the same time throughout the
region. This falls in early April in the centre of Japan.

We have been informed that most of the flights to Japan is already almost fully booked towards the end of March and early April. But, for
those who might think you missed the opportunity this year, I would say, " Do not feel bitter. You are not too late at all." The sakura
blossom front moves from south to north along our 5,000 Kilometre long islands, you can catch up the front and admire the same beauty
early in May in the northern quarter of Japan like in Aomori. Our high speed rail will take you to this city in the north, within a little over three
hours from Tokyo.
picMalaysian visitors to Japan hit a new record high in last
year, reaching 249,500, surpassing its previous high of
176,713 in 2013. This registers a 41.3% increase. If
compared with 130,183 in 2012, the figure almost doubled!
Our nation welcomes tourists from Malaysia. Dear readers
of Sinchew, do please share with us some of your snap
shots or artistic photographs of blossoms you took during
your visit, together with some comments, verses, poems
or music you composed, which other readers too will be
charmed by their beauty.

Sakura inspires various feelings in its viewers. Magnificent
flowers bloom, but they only last for a few days and fall
with good grace. Some say that Sakura flowers are often
referred as a metaphor to the fragility and transience  of
human life.

It marked contrast to ephemerality of its flowers, the
average life of sakura trees is very long, some have lasted
1,000 years, while exceptional trees have even stood over 1,500 years. An existing legendry tree in Nagano Prefecture is said to be planted 
about 2,000 years ago by a son of the 12th Emperor at his visit to this place (note: the present Emperor is the 125th in an unbroken straight
line of descent from the 1st Emperor). Every spring since then has this tree borne blossoms for nearly 2,000 years.

In many contries around the world, flowers have been enriching life, such as roses, orchids, tulips, lavenders, lilies and so on. So do cherry
blossoms in our country. Just as Bunga Raya is the national flower of Malaysia, Sakura represents our nation. Sakura flowers and trees
represent our hearts and souls- patience; persistence; continuity; genuine nobility; punctuality; regularity; and spiritual purity.

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