There’s a new celebrity in town and her name is Sakura. She’s tiny, delicate, a pale shade of pink and every one’s clamoring for a chance to be photographed with her. She’s the new Paris Hilton and she’s got this country so love-struck, one could say it’s bordering on obsessive. People travel thousands of miles and camp out overnight in freezing temperatures, all just for the chance to spend a single day in her presence.
For weeks, I’ve known she was coming. Everyone from my boss to my Japanese language school have been sending me emails, waxing poetically about her beauty or else theorizing when she’d make her first appearance in Tokyo. The morning news has offered daily reports on Sakura sightings; where she’d been spotted last and educated guesses on where she’d be headed next.
I chalked it all up to yet another Japanese fad, akin to the Banana Diet of ’08 and didn’t give it much thought.
“What’s the big deal?” I said every time I clicked on the “not attending” icon to yet another ‘Sakura party’ or picnic invite on Facebook that one of my sakura-obsessed friends was hosting. “The only Sakura fans are old people,” I said in an attempt to reassure myself that I wasn’t missing out. “She’s not THAT pretty.”
But then last weekend in Kyoto, I grudgingly agreed to accompany a friend to a Sakura photoshoot. Sakura was doing a week-only special appearance in the Zen garden of a famous temple. It was agreed by most that the beauty of the peaceful, majestic and meticulously groomed Zen garden would be the best spot to photograph her. Green, yellow and blue spotlights had been set up with this in mind, and as the sun began to set, crowds of tourists descended upon the temple in eager anticipation.
“I feel like I’m in Disneyland”, I said as well paid the US $8 entrance fee and joined the throng of tourists waiting in line at the entrance.
“Shh!” my friends said, as we slipped off our shoes and followed the crowd who’s excited chatter had fallen to a hushed quiet. We tiptoed barefoot across the cold wooden temple floors and then around a corner…and there she was.
“Wow, oh wow,” I said, awed. “She’s like…Cinderella.” Flashbulbs went off all around us as peope pushed forward leaning over the barricade in order to get a good shot.
She stood, rooted in spot, her hair falling in long, soft tendrils across her face. It was the color and texture of soft, fluffy, pink cotton candy and was so long it nearly touched the ground. The spotlights illuminated her hair, casting the rest of her in dark shadows. The stars above her head seemed to twinkle like dainty diamond-crusted barrettes. She was gorgeous.
And I fell in love…hard. It was like that Justin Timberlake song:
“Those flashing lights seem to cause a glare
The way they hit her I just stop and stare
She’s got me love stoned from everywhere
She’s bad and she knows
I think that she knows…”
I’ve spent the last few days in this sort of love-stoned bubble of happiness. It’s true what they say, Tokyo looks a thousand times more beautiful when Sakura is around. I wander around the streets smiling like a mad-woman, sharing my sakura-spotting story with my roommates and co-workers and with the random old ladies I meet at Lawsons.
But you know what? It doesn’t even matter…because everyone around me has been bitten by the love bug as well. They understand.
In fact, Sakura has inspired…
Even Starbucks and The Body Shop have jumped on the trend…
And you know you’ve made it when drag queens write you tribute songs…
Sakura, I heart you…