Saturday, the third of April, a striking day.
Approximately 12:30 I was had just started pacing around in the kitchen, trying to decide what I would eat for lunch. Right on cue, Blair Thomson called, asking if I was free. "Yes... why?" I responded. "Come to a hanami party!"
My lunch died this day well before its time, and for this, I mourn. I walked to the nearby Shinagawa station, carrying a jacket for myself, as well as one for Blair, as he predicted a cold afternoon, despite the warm ambient temperature at the time of his call. Taking the familiar Yamanote line to Shibuya, I met Blair. Together we jumped the next train to Harajuku, another station along 'my' Yamanote line. 'Jumped' may not be a good word to use there, as the train was incredibly full; a more accurate verb would be 'pushed' or 'shoved.'
Arriving at Harajuku, one thing was immediately apparent; everyone in this city had decided that today was the best day for a hanami party. There was a line simply to start climbing the stairs from the platform, and this line continued throughout the entire train station, and only began to dissipate around 100 metres after the station itself finished. You may consider this 'bad,' but the mass of arrivals had forced the line going onto the platform to be single file, and it moved far slower than the 'exit' line ever could.
Our goal was to meet some friends of Blair's, and some friends of theirs, et cetera. Accordingly, we resolutely marched towards Yoyogi Park, amidst the masses. As we exited the station proper, I heard a strange sound. I shall attempt to describe it to you: "BEN."
This was strange, because we were in the middle of a veritable army of Japanese, sure my hair looks funny, but I did not think I stuck out that much. To exasperate my surprise, I really do not know that many people in this country, so what the heck? Soon enough an answer appeared, a customer of Leafcup, an English communication cafe I worked for, had noticed me. At the time, it was nice, and talking to him was fun, but later on I was even more grateful for this chance encounter.
Together we marched towards Yoyogi Park. As we walked, I was interested to find that Harajuku was the closest station to this park, not the more logical 'Yoyogi station.' Whilst we walked, Hiroshi and his friend invited us to join them at their hanami party, which unfortunately Blair and I had to decline, due to our impending meeting with his associates.
Walking through the park, the sheer number of people shocked me. On both sides of the path we tread, were groups of people seated on blue tarps, eating and enjoying the beautiful day. Nevertheless, this did not even compare with the wall of people marching with us along the path. I remember almost daring myself to jump on top of the nearest person and see if they would help me crowd surf all the way there. I have photos of this event, but until I either get my website working, or decipher a photo blog website, they shall remain displayed only on Facebook. In fact, they are not even on there... yet.
Our march ceased at what appeared to be a toilet block, located close to a pond, approximately the park's centre. Hiroshi greeted some more of his compatriots here, who again offered us a seat at their upcoming celebration. We repeated our, now quite practised, declination speech, but said we would wait with them to see which party would find its remaining members first. Blair attempted to hasten this process with a myriad of phone calls to his friend, attempting to locate their group. Unfortunately, our success was far from assured.
Whilst we waited, there was a group of five or seven Japanese young people, I cannot recall the exact number, practising a dance right there in the middle of the park. I was so impressed, not only that they were quite good, but also they were brave enough to, so shamelessly, practise this dance in such a public place. Whilst I attempted to sneak photos of them, I was informed by my companions that, not only was this common, but that they would be overjoyed to notice their momentary stardom, and would laugh at my surreptitious paparazzi behaviour.
Soon enough Hiroshi and his friends decided to go for quick turn about the 'immediate' vicinity, in a visual search of their remaining companions. I say 'immediate' here, as this seemed to imply quite a decent walk, as we were surrounded on every side by beautiful cherry blossoms, innumerable Japanese people, and blue tarpaulin as far as the eye could see.
Farewelling them for the time being, Blair and I found a seat on the edge of a nearby fountain, deciding to at least sit and have something to drink whilst we waited for his friends. Unfortunately, Softbank, the company with whom we both had mobile phones, allowed very little reception in the area, and we had issues with communication. Pondering our options, Hiroshi and his friends arrived and gave us the answer. They had not found their friends, and accordingly we all waited together on the edge of this fountain, eating a little and drinking a little more.
Soon enough more friends of Hiroshi arrived, one of which had a bag in which was situated the cutest dog I have ever seen. Please see photos.
Time, it seemed, was intent on marching on, and far too soon, division struck our group a decisive blow.