I never thought I would wait for cherry blossoms as one would when anticipating the birth of a child, a happy announcement or a piece of good news.
But wait I did.
The forecast said the earliest blossoms could be seen in Fukuoka, Japan, between March 19 and 25. So I booked a flight to make sure I catch the moment when I would witness for the first time the flowering of this gift from nature.
As we landed on March 22, I was dismayed to see there were only four trees in the city that had flowers. I was not even sure if they were cherry trees. The information sheet said there were a hundred varieties of cherry so I thought , well, that should be one of them!. After all, I travelled almost four hours to see this magical event.
The next day, we walked around the Tenjin area and noticed a few more of the same bigger blossoms, but the pink ones were still buds. We reckoned they would never bloom during our short stay, might as well we just enjoy the quiet, the food and the jazz. Every restaurant we went to played jazz music, so did the kiosk and food truck at the festival grounds. Even a famous burger joint called Mo’s Burger and a dainty café called Antique Heart Bread played jazz.
This may as well be my reason for visiting Japan. The quiet. There is no other place I can remember where people speak in hushed whispers, if they talk at all. The volumes are low but discernible. And they all seem to speak in sing-song accent, we realized during our casual encounters with restaurant servers, hotel staff and retail store personnel. We felt welcomed, which made us wonder, is this only in Fukuoka? I’ve enjoyed the same silence in Tokyo, especially on weekends when the streets of Ginza are reserved for pedestrians.
Not very many places in the world can be as quiet and serene as Japan. There are a lot of people everywhere, but the noise level is so low you can’t sense their presence if you’re not looking.
You will find as you walk the Chuo ward (district) that you can breathe clean air because almost everyone drives an electric hybrid car, and the people on the sidewalks are on bicycles. What a contrast to Hanoi with its motorcycles!
Read the second part of Chit Juan's Fukuoka adventure here.