THE HEART OF KANJI: Cherry Blossom Festival

Sakura Matsuri. calligraphy by the Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

Sakura Matsuri. calligraphy by the Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

桜 (Sakura) means “cherry blossom,” which consists of three parts. The left side represents a tree; the top right side represents a cherry flower necklace; and below that is a woman sitting. Together, the cherry blossom resembles a beautiful woman wearing a cherry blossom.

祭り (Matsuri) means “festival,” which consists of two parts. The top left side is a slice of meat and the right side represents a hand. The part below represents an altar; and the act of giving an offering of a slice of meat to Kami/God in appreciation; and having a celebration festival for Kami.

The 46th annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival finished April 21. The two-weekend festival began April 13.

This year, I had some concerns before the festival because of the recent act of terrorism at the Boston Marathon. It’s sad but true that there are disturbing people out there who want to attack innocent people in crowded events. I am thankful there were no incidents during the festival.

Both weekends had great weather. In the past, some festival events were canceled because of rain. I often speak about the meaning of arigato. Even though you face difficult situations, you should still express appreciation. Even if it rains, we should express our sincere appreciation.

Before the festival, I prayed to Kami/God as follows, “We will accept any kind of weather during the festival. However, many people who come from faraway places may have a difficult time if it rains. They may not be able to enjoy the festivities in poor weather. Especially those who prepare foods to sell may have a tough time. They won’t be able to sell their food and it will be wasted.”

I believe my prayer reached Kami.

I am most glad that the people who came to the festival enjoyed the martial arts demonstrations, music and dance festivities, ikebana and bonsai exhibits, and also that those nonprofit organizations could sell their delicious food.

I participated in many festival events, like the Cherry Blossom Queen Program, the mikoshi purification, the shide prayer activity, my Japanese calligraphy display and demonstration at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California and finally, walked in the parade with ministers and members of the Japanese American Religious Federation.

During the purification service for the mikoshi, Japanese community leaders, the Consul General of Japan in San Francisco Hiroshi Inomata and the parade Grand Marshal Teruhiko Saigo offered tamakushi (presentation branch of a divine tree). After the service, I had an opportunity to talk with Saigo, one of the most popular singers and movie stars in Japan. We found out that we’re the same age, 66 years old. While we had each taken completely different life journeys, I still felt close to him. We shook hands and celebrated the occasion.

After the mikoshi service, we began the shide prayer event. Many people wrote prayers of appreciation, apology and requests on shide (white zigzag paper streamers in the shape of a thunderbolt. People believe that Kami/God can create such powerful thunder). Then the shide were hung on a prayer tree. A couple hundred people wrote their wishes. My shodo students and I along with other artists submitted our Japanese calligraphy artwork and displayed them at the JCCCNC. Many people came to see and enjoyed them.

It was a very busy schedule but I enjoyed this year’s Cherry Blossom Festival so much.

Rev. Masato Kawahatsu is a minister at the Konko Church of San Francisco and Konko Center of South San Francisco, who teaches shodo (Japanese calligraphy) and martial arts. He also gives spiritual counseling. He is the author of “An Eternal Journey.” He can be reached at konkosf2@sbcglobal.net or (415) 517-5563. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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