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Due to how quickly the flowers stop blooming, as well as various legends and myths (and classic literature) regarding them, sakura are connected to the concept of death in Japanese folklore.
There lie cadavers buried under the cherry blossoms! This is a truth that you must accept. For how else could the flowers of the cherry tree be so magnificent in their bloom? I spent the past several days feeling terribly ill at ease, as I was unable to accept such a beauty. But now, at last, the truth has finally sunk in. There lie cadavers buried under the cherry blossoms. You must accept this. My house is one that contains a multitude of tools and implements⎯-so why then, from among such trinkets and baubles, did the blade of a safety razor come to me like a vision to a clairvoyant every night on my way home? You say you know not why, whereas I myself cannot comprehend it⎯-the two of which verily amount to the same thing. A flowering tree, on the other hand, gives forth its essence when it reaches that stage known as full bloom, and in doing so, it emanates a mysterious aura comparable to the state of perfect stillness approached by a fast-spinning top, or perhaps the fleeting sensory impressions roused by a spectacular musical performance, or something like the afterglow that follows the burning act of consummation. It is this beauty, wondrous and vivacious, that never ceases to captivate the human spirit. Nonetheless, yesterday and the day before, it was the selfsame thing that caused my heart to fall under an intense spell of gloom. I was unable to accept such a beauty. On the contrary, I became anxious and fell into a state of melancholy, and a feeling of emptiness overtook me. But now, at long last, I understand. You see, beneath the splendor of those cherry trees blooming in profusion, cadavers had been buried one by one, if you can imagine for a moment. Then, soon enough, you’ll understand just what sort of anxiety I’d been feeling. The cadavers of horses, the cadavers of dogs and cats, and it seems, the cadavers of human beings too. Rotting cadavers, crawling with maggots, reeking of a most intolerable stench, all the while seeping a liquid so pure and clear. The cherry tree, as if it were the rapacious octopus, extends its roots outward to grasp. Like the feeding tentacles of the sea anemone, its roots enfold to partake of that liquid. What could form such a petal? What was behind the creation of such a stamen? I had envisioned it in dreamlike detail: The roots had gathered silently, matter-of-factly, to siphon that pure, clear liquid into its vascular system. How you must be grimacing at the very thought! Not a very pretty way of looking at things, is it? Finally, I had come to see the cherry blossoms for what they were, and it freed me from what had been an unsettling mystery yesterday and the day before. A few days earlier, I had descended into a nearby ravine, scrambling down the rocks. There in the splashing water, hither and thither, doodlebugs were coming into being in the manner of the birth of Venus herself. I watched them soar into the hollow where, as you may know, they perform their beautiful mating ritual. After walking a little further, I came across something horrifying. On the banks of the river, where the shallows ought to have been, there was no such water to be seen. A brilliant shimmer resembling an oil slick drifted across the entire surface. You must be wondering what it was. There, the countless thousands of cadavers of doodlebugs perforated the water’s surface. They lay piled in mounds, their wings curling in the sunlight, glistening like spilled oil. There, after they had finished spawning, became their grave. At the sight alone, I felt as if I had suffered a blow to the chest. In bearing witness to the gradual process of decay that appeared to be taking place in that grave of doodlebugs, I had tasted a cruel delight. There was not a single joyous thing to be found in this ravine. The warbler and the tit, the pale sunlight, and saplings too, were but a distant notion. That tragic fate, it seemed to me, was unavoidable. It was then that the picture became clear in my mind for the first time: It was a counterbalance. My heart had been pining for melancholy as if I were an evil spirit. That state of melancholy had been brought to an end, and now my mind was at peace once more. By now, your armpits must be damp with sweat, just as mine are. Nothing to be ashamed of. After all, they are certainly no stickier than semen. And on that note, let us conclude our melancholy. Alas, there lie cadavers buried under the cherry blossoms! As for what on earth brought about such a wild flight of fancy involving cadavers, it appears to be anyone’s guess. That it may be part and parcel of the cherry blossoms is a notion I cannot seem to shake out of my head, no matter how I try. I believe I have hereby earned the right, like the many locals flocking to the festivities taking place under those flowering trees, to drink merrily in celebration of the cherry blossom viewing season!
– translated by Bonnie Huie from Kajii Motojirou’s ‘Under the Cherry Blossoms’
My parents thought that since I went last year, I was obviously going to the flower viewing party again.
Ask me first! Say something at least!
I bet they kept it on the down-low on purpose!
I didn’t wanna go.
But neither did I have the courage to try getting food poisoning again.
Never again, Reika.
I seriously thought I would die.
I swear I saw a bright light at the end of a tunnel…
Okaasama was determined to pair me up this year so she enthusiastically dressed me in a furisode.
Cherry blossoms at night, and a furisode.
Maybe if it rained then all the sakura would be washed away, along with the party.
The skies were clear.
Oniisama was busy with work, so he’d be arriving later.
He was busy quite a lot, recently.
He still hadn’t taken me out to eat like he promised for White Day either.
“My! Reika-san! Thank you so much for coming!” greeted Mrs. Kaburagi, with literally open arms.
As usual, she was eye-catching and beautiful.
And Chairman Kaburagi still had that mature adult charm!
His legs were so much longer than Otousama’s!
And he wasn’t overweight, either!
Haah, so cool…
Anyway, after Madam Kaburagi gave me some truly ridiculous praise for my furisode, the topic changed to her son.
“I hear that that boy actually became the President of the Pivoine. Will that surly kid really be able to manage?”
“Masaya-sama is very popular, so I do not believe there is anything to worry about.”
“You think? He isn’t causing you any problems, Reika-san?”
“Heavens, no. Masaya-sama is competent and always has it together. And his grades are always at the top, and…”
Since we weren’t all that close I was struggling to find things to praise him for.
Good points, good points… What are his good points…?
Too bad. Nothing comes to mind.
“Don’t hesitate to let me know if that stupid boy of mine causes you any trouble. I’ll really let him have it.”
He was causing me trouble right now, actually.
“Anyway, please look after Masaya, okay?”
“I am in his care…”
I really didn’t want to look after him though.
Uu, even my smile had gone stiff.
The Kaburagi pair gave me brilliant smiles before leaving to greet other guests.
After that, Otousama brought me around the venue to greet people.
It was exhausting keeping this act up…
After we were done greeting my parents’ closer acquaintances, I was finally given my freedom.
Recently a lot of people had been recommending their sons to me, so I was having a rough time dodging all the bullets.
Thanks to that I had no appetite, despite the feast before me.
I picked up some sakura jelly and helped myself to a few bites while I took a breather.
Oh. This was pretty good.
“Good evening, Kisshouin-san.”
Someone thoroughly unpleasant had come my way.
“So you’re wearing a furisode this time, in… deep scarlet, I think you call this? It suits you. You look lovely tonight.”
“Thank you very much…”
Haah, his smile was suspicious…
I wonder if he was holding a grudge after that White Day rumour.
I just wanted to make a break for it…
“Aren’t you going to look at the flowers?”
“I admired them up-close not too long ago. At any rate, I think that the night-time sakura should be enjoyed from a little further away.”
I could hear the guests praising the weeping sakura again. It had bloomed as gorgeously as last year.
And the yoshino cherries had bloomed just as well.
It almost looked like another world, which to be honest was a little scary.
“I think I know what you mean. Don’t the sakura seem a bit scary at night? It’s almost like they bloomed by using human lifeblood as fertiliser. Say, isn’t there a tale about burying-”
“A corpse under the roots of a sakura tree!”
Sakura are scary at night, right!?
I mean I like sakura, and they’re beautiful at night, but it’s because they’re so beautiful that it creeps me out!
Why did anybody think it would be a good idea to have a night-time banquet under the sakura?
“You know, when I read Kajii Motojirou’s poem, I thought, ‘I know exactly what he means.’ There’s just this indescribable discomfort when you see them in the night like this, isn’t there?”
I know what you mean!
“But they hardly seem so frightening in the daytime, do they?”
“It’s because of the way the flowers seem to float in the darkness. It feels like you’ll get pulled in too.”
“That makes sense.”
“The weeping sakura here isn’t too bad, since it’s just barely 50 years old. But as for those sakura that have lived for hundreds of years… I can only imagine how much human blood they’ve drunk.”
“You are scaring me, so please stop!”
You’re going to make me imagine it.
“How mysterious. Even though they are all flowers, neither the plum nor the peach blossoms feel at all scary at night, do they?”
“Shhh. If Masaya’s mum hears you say that she’s going to plan something big, and all because ‘Reika-san likes peach and plum blossoms’ okay?”
I quickly clamped my mouth shut.
Madam Kaburagi loved her events, so I could actually see her doing it.
Enjou smiled at me in amusement.
“But as scared as you seem to be of the sakura at night, you’re fond of sweets made from them, no? For example, sakuramochi.”
Why and how did he know this?
Flower-themed sweets from the West tasted a bit strange, and I wasn’t sure what I thought of them. Rose jam for example.
The Japanese equivalents on the other hand, I was quite fond of.
Sakuramochi for example, or umegaemochi.
Huh. It was all mochi.
“Yes. I enjoy eating them because of how festive they are. It really drives home that spring is here. I think this is the same for all the desserts of each season.”
I made very sure to emphasise that I wasn’t some glutton character.
Didn’t mean I wasn’t gulping down green tea at home as I nommed on sakuramochi though!
“I see. Wow, you’re so refined, Kisshouin-san.”
That’s right. I am refined. I’m not a glutton at all.
I could see the laughter in his eyes.
He didn’t believe me in the slightest, did he?
“As expected of you, Kisshouin-san. No wonder you seem to be enjoying that sakura jelly so much.”
See? There he goes.
I had to get back at him somehow.
“Speaking of which, Masaya was looking for you.”
“Is that so?”
So Kaburagi was serious about talking about his love troubles in the middle of this huge crowd?
“Speaking of which, are you not together with Kaburagi-sama this evening? How novel.”
“Why does it feel like you think of us as a set?”
“Well, you two are famous for being awfully intimate…”
“Come on, you wouldn’t call that intimate, right? Kisshouin-san, did you just choose that wording to mess with me?”
Ah, did I go too far with my teasing?
This snake could show his true colours.
Was he going to do it?
Was he going to attack!?
While I was looking at him guardedly, somebody else appeared.
“Here you are, Shuu.”
Coming in from my five was a white hand that softly took Enjou’s arm.
It was Yuiko-san.
So she was here too…
“I was worried when you suddenly disappeared like that, you know?” she looked up at him, leaning into his shoulder.
Yuiko-san, beautiful and fragile, had drawn the attention of all the males around us.
“You seemed to be having fun with those guys, so I thought it would be fine to step away.”
“My, is somebody jealous?”
I looked around at all the men staring jealously at Yuiko-san and Enjou.
Apparently they had all been fussing over her until very recently.
Unfortunately they didn’t stand a chance against Enjou.
The two of them were picture perfect, after all.
Enjou gently tapped the hand on his arm.
“Yuiko, this is Kisshouin Reika-san. She’s in my grade at school.”
“Kisshouin… Reika-san?” she asked as she distractedly turned my way.
Big, dark eyes took me in.
I shivered a little.
“You know about Yuiko, don’t you? She’s a relative of mine. Uryuu Yuiko.”
“Gokigen’yoh. My name is Kisshouin Reika,” I smiled, as confidently as possible.
“Uryuu Yuiko. Have we… perhaps met before…?”
“Why, yes. At the Zui’ran School Festival.”
Languid eyes gazed at me for a while, before Yuiko smiled softly.
“Ah, I remember now. You were wearing a lovely china dress, no? I’m right, aren’t I?”
“Huhu,” she laughed, seemingly pleased with hitting the mark.
That smile had entranced everyone around us.
“Hey, Shuu? I’m a bit thirsty.”
“Then shall we go get something for you to drink? Kisshouin-san, will…”
“I think I shall admire the sakura from a little closer. Please excuse me, Enjou-sama, Yuiko-san.”
Enjou frowned faintly.
Yuiko-san looked at me again with those jet-black eyes of hers, and smiled at me.
Good joke, Enjou. Who on earth would go anywhere with you two?
To escape as quickly as possible I busted out my ultimate skill, power-walking, but my furisode was making it impossible!
I messed up!
I looked like a penguin right now!
Ahh, and somehow I could feel Yuiko-san’s eyes on me from behind…
Happy thoughts, Reika, happy thoughts.
“I swear I saw a bright light at the end of a tunnel…”
“I saw higanbana(red spider lilies).” 彼岸が見えた。
These are said to bloom in the Buddhist underworld.
“Happy thoughts, Reika, happy thoughts.”
What she actually said was tsurukametsurukame, a charm to ward off bad luck. Cranes and turtles are fortuitous symbols of longevity.
鶴亀鶴亀(tsurukametsurukame; crane, turtle, crane, turtle)
Fan art by moya. Relevant chapters are linked for your convenience.
Primary School Year 1: Summer Party
– Sherbet-green dress
– White flower in hair
– Rather tan
– Elegant sandals with heels
High School 1st Year: Summer Party
– Powder pink layered chiffon dress
– Cute design
High School 1st Year: Flower-Viewing Party
– Ribboned flare dress in champagne gold
– Nails are sakura pink
– Sakura motif hair accessory
High School 2nd Year: Firefly Catching
– Turquoise kimono
– Hair done up
High School 2nd Year: Kisshouin Company Party
– Wine red dress