Houses of Sleep
Willow Woman
East West
Decline of Taste
Note on Yeats
Oscar Wilde
Again on Hokku
On Poetry
Again on Poetry
Morning Fancy
Ink Slab 





THE cherry-blossom has its great popularity with us, unlike the plum-blossom, largely because we have no need to [refer to] any particular story or tradition (though stories and traditions of it abound); but only to itself for our appreciation. With us appreciation of it is most natural, while often forced art in another place. And you can make on the spot, if you wish, a story or tradition, of heavenly thing or human being, to suit the cherry-blossom and also your own whim, and even imagine it to be partly your own creation. It is remarkable that any story or tradition, provided it is beautiful, will be found fit for it. I know some flowers of whom I can fancy an ugly thing; but your imagination will soon be disarmed if you start with hostile intention towards the cherry-blossom. It seems to me that the biggest offence to the cherry-blossom is to write poetry on it. How many million poems have we written on it? It is really appalling to see what bad poems we could turn out; it is a fact that the poems on the cherry-blossom have [<93] never even Once been good. I do not like to believe it to be from the reason that it is a very difficult subject to write on. Indeed, I incline to think that the flower itself is ever so pleased even with a bad poem. There is a flower like the plum-blossom for instance, looking so critical and hard to please, whose severe appearance repels poor poetry; and we are almost afraid to write a line on the lotus, because it looks so holy. And the lone formal behaviour of the Iris makes our personal approach impossible. It is like the Japanese tea-master wrapped in cold silence. But the cherry-blossom is in temperament like love, generous enough like love to make a poet believe his work is good; but in truth he always fails, again as in love.
    I often quarrel with my friend, who insists that the cherry-blossom is vain, like a pretentious woman; I always say to him that a proof that it is not will be seen in the fact that it never asks your imagination to value it for more than it is, as does the plum-blossom sometimes, and the morning-glory quite often. If you think it is pretentious, it is only the [<94]  flower's misfortune. Go into the street and ask any jinrikisha runner or even beggar whom you come across what he thinks about the cherry-blossom; you will be told by him exactly what you think about it, not less, not more. I am ready to say that there is only one occasion during a long run of three hundred and sixty-five days that we, low and high, poor and rich, perfectly agree with one another, in the moment when we are looking up to the cherry-blossom. Beneath the cherry-blossom we return at once to our first simplicity. Without that archaic strength we should never be able to hold up our lives and world.
    I have heard many people could not understand why the plum-blossom must bloom at such an early season, when it even trembles on the naked branch, and why the maple leaves must turn red, like the showy kimono of a gay daughter in carnival, before they enter into wintry rest; but anybody's heart of hearts always awakens at once when he sees the cherry-blossom in bloom, indeed, the spring of his soul and the spring of the flower call to each other. We love it, too, because it is the Japanese [<95] way to agree in love. We agree often foolishly but innocently, before we ask why, when we hear a voice of a leader. Who was the leader of the movement for the general admiration of the cherry-blossom? It was the children, I believe, who brought it home from the countryside a thousand years ago when it was a nameless flower; and it was the poets of the Heian age who properly introduced it into our Japanese life. The poets were the leaders ; and our spirit, which is of the crowd made us follow after them. Is there any greater work for the poets than the bringing of a flower into our lives ? It is natural with us that the cherry-blossom should spiritually evolve and gain an influence even to change the physical side of our life, particularly two hundred years ago, when we had a popular saying that the Bushi or fighter was the man of men, and the cherry-blossom the flower of flowers. It is, indeed, an interesting psychological study to examine the real relation between the cherry-blossom and the Japanese. We danced, ate, and more freely drank the sake wine all gold, under its failing petals. [<96]  As we did last spring, so we will do again.
    I do not care what history the cherry-blossom may have; what concerns me most here is its real beauty which is the more enhanced by a touch of sadness under the grey bosom of the sky with mists. What a lamentation of the flower when it is suddenly called to the ground by the evening temple bell or sudden rain! Why has she to haste when we all wish her to stay longer? I would like to think that we who come like the cherry-blossom shall go again like it. Our human lives are, indeed, beautiful like that flower, and its sigh under the nights wind is ours. It is quite commonplace to say that the life of a flower is short. But it is most wonderful to observe what a gusty energy is put into that short life of the cherry-blossom; it blooms, true to say, without any care, straight from the right heart of the earth.[<97]