Edmonds Sister City Dispatches: Easter amid the Japanese cherry blossoms

Enjoying the cherry blossoms with Shiori Sakata.
Enjoying the cherry blossoms with Shiori Sakata.

Story and photos by Paul Anderson

It is a nice cool Easter morning here in Japan. I decided to sit outside and share this story. Yesterday was a beautiful warm sunny day in Osaka. So what do you do on a day like this? Go as high as you can so you can look out over the city, and to go find Sakura (blossoms). I had already tried the ferris wheel on top of the HEP 5 building the night before with one of our exchange student’s family. Not high enough, though. So I went off to the JR Osaka Station to find a way to the roof. Twelve stories up is nice, but the last three were by manpower. What I found amazed me: Besides the view all the way around there was also a garden on top. I saw my favorite, blueberries and strawberries.

I knew there was a higher place but thought I’d share it with my friend from Kwansei Gakuin University, Shiori Sakata. I had met her last summer in Edmonds with the rest of the Japanese students who came to visit, and she had been at our house most every day. I remembered that every time I talked to her she got this huge grin on her face. How were we going to communicate without writing? I am happy to say her English now is much better than my Japanese.

Another problem is, where do you meet in a city this big? The best place is under the big red whale in the HEP 5 building. I better take a picture of it before I leave.

The Umeda Sky building
The Umeda Sky building

The plan of action for the day was go to the tall building and then off to see the cherry blossoms. It was a short walk over to the Umeda Sky building. I had seen it on the bus ride into the city on Tuesday. It is 40 stories up to the top. From there you can walk a complete circle and get a view from the bay to the mountains. I was amazed by all the buildings as far as the eye could see. What was missing were cars. The roads were almost vacant of them. There were a lot of railroad tracks, though. Shioro pointed out that we would be taking one of those trains north.

Back down to earth, and off to the train station we went. I think I’m getting the hang of this now. Buy ticket, put it in the machine at the gate, get it back and don’t lose it. You will need it later. Once we were on the train, there was not a seat in sight. We found a nice place to stand next to the door on the other side. That was a big mistake. The trains pass about a foot apart and every time they did, the doors pushed in and a puff of air blew in my face. I jumped every time it happened, 10 times in all.

However, standing afforded us the best view of my favorite sights, the countryside. It was nothing you would ever see in Seattle. Small houses with no yards packed side by side, narrow streets and neighborhood gardens. One thing I noticed was the school grounds were all dirt with no grass. Some of the high schools had outdoor swimming pools.

Our stop was in Hanshin. It was a short walk to the Shukugawa River. We had to line up on the sidewalk because we weren’t the only ones with the same idea. The person in front of me had a San Francisco sweatshirt on and yes, she spoke English. The river itself is down a 10-foot embankment, lined with brick, a place you don’t want to be during a downpour. All along the bank are trees and people. Families, friends and students had brought blue plastic tarps and lunches to enjoy the day.

I mentioned to Shioro that you would never see this many people in Seattle enjoying a place like this. We never did walk the entire length of the tree-lined river. There were too many trees to see.  I am glad I was here at this time. The trees blossomed a week early this year.

As a side note, Hanshin is where the Tigers baseball team is, the big rivalry with the Tokyo Giants. They take their baseball seriously in Japan.

Edmonds Sister City Commissioner Paul Anderson is writing regular reports about the commission’s visit to Japan, part of a 25th anniversary trip honoring Edmonds’ Sister City relationship with Hekinan, Japan. Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling and his wife Sue will head a delegation of 28 community members going to the Japanese city April 1-8.

Another shot of the cherry blossoms.
Another shot of the cherry blossoms.

 

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