Of fes­ti­vals and fleet­ing blos­soms

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

MYlittle friend Erika turned seven last year and off she flew from Syd­ney to Tokyo with mother Saori and fa­ther Shane to cel­e­brate her spe­cial birth­day at the Shichi-go-san (seven-five-three) fes­ti­val. This aus­pi­cious fete is held in Ja­pan ev­ery Novem­ber 15 for three and seven-year-old girls and three and fiveyear-old boys. The chil­dren visit shrines wear­ing for­mal garb and re­ceive bless­ings, candy and, nat­u­rally, a lot of cam­era-click­ing at­ten­tion.

Erika wore Saori’s childhood ki­mono, obi sash, geta san­dals and ac­ces­sories. In a lovely con­tin­uum of tra­di­tion, Erika’s grand­mother had been keep­ing the items in a tis­sue-lined box ready for the day when Saori’s daugh­ter would fol­low in her foot­steps — as it turned out, Ja­panese-Aus­tralian Erika wasn’t all that keen at first on the clomp­ing wooden san­dals and the trussed-tight obi but loved be­ing at the cen­tre of it all.

It’s time-hon­oured fes­ti­vals such as this that make Ja­pan such a de­light­fully colour­ful place to visit, and if you are hol­i­day­ing in spring and sum­mer there’s the added at­trac­tion of trees in full blos­som (es­pe­cially in March and April) and gar­dens at their flow­er­ing best.

It’s the fleet­ing na­ture of cherry blos­soms, in par­tic­u­lar, that makes spring so revered. The suc­cess of each year’s show­ing lies in the hands of the weather gods. If in Tokyo, head to Shin­juku Gyo-en, an oa­sis of park­land fa­mous for a pro­fu­sion of dou­ble­flow­er­ing cherry trees. There have been haiku verses ga­lore writ­ten about the sea­sons in Ja­pan but none more joy­ous than those cel­e­brat­ing the warm ad­vent of spring. And as I look again at our photo al­bum, I see that the ki­mono worn by the young Saori and then by lit­tle Erika is patterned with branches of blooms and cas­cades of petals — and both mother and daugh­ter are still blos­som­ing.

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