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Welcome To Japan

You never forget your first trip to Japan. Long flight from anywhere in the western hemisphere. You arrive tired, bedraggled, disheveled, sleep deprived, dehydrated, and over fed. Thinking the long day/night of travel is over, you discover that it has only begun. Quick, quick, rush, rush…there you are, here I am. Snap a photo, run for the train. Brief stop to get your rail pass and away we go. Narita express to…OMYGAWD…Tokyo eki will seize your breath and the rest of any residual energy you might still possess. Confusion and fatigue take their toll. Collapse on the train and finally breathe…sigh…breathe.

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I met Wendy and Sue at Narita airport and whisked them away for our April 2008 sakura adventure. At Tokyo station we boarded a local train bound for our first stop, Kamakura, as the sun set and the neon winked to life. We found a taxi amid the usual bustle of the train station and took a short ride to…where?...the Kamakura Marriage Avenue Hotel. Who knew?

As we stepped out of the taxi, longing for a hot bath and a long sleep, we gratefully inhaled the sweet sea air, turned, and fell in love. The street in front of the hotel was alive with people.

However, it wasn’t the people we saw, it was the blossoms. The night was warm and the street in front of the hotel was busy. The median consisted of a paved walkway lined on both sides by closely spaced cherry trees. All of them were bursting at peak bloom.  The trees appeared fluffy, flocked, impossibly loaded with blossoms. Hundreds of lighted paper lanterns were strung between the trees, lending their beautiful glow to the evening and softly illuminating the path. The light breeze off the Pacific swirled the pale pink sakura petals in the air like dancing snowflakes.

Weren’t we tired? Wendy and Sue were exhausted…long flight…right? NOT ANYMORE!

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This was the first night of a long anticipated adventure. After dropping our bags in our lovely room (Wendy quickly claiming the traditional tatami room enclosed by delicate shoji screens), we headed back to the street where we immediately relaxed and walked for a couple of hours up and down the pathway under the beautiful blossoms.

Couples strolled hand in hand.  Children laughed and scampered ahead of their parents. Young singles prepared their evening meal on small grills, playing music, sipping osake and beer, and enjoying their evening ohanami under the trees.   Tangy, humid, warm, salty air; glowing lanterns; softly lighted, impossibly fluffy blossoms; and gently drifting petals. We hugged each other in anticipation of the exciting days ahead. This was our first night together in Japan and it was definitely, absolutely, wonderfully, truly magic.

I turned to my dear cousin and my beloved daughter and said, Welcome to Japan.

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