An old Japanese man keeps saying something to me in Japanese and I cannot understand. Finally, he switches to English and simple questions, asking where I come from and what do I do in Japan. “Did you come to Japan for this?” he asks pointing to a blooming lotus flower. Quite a logical question given that I am the only foreigner in a crowd of Japanese and it is 6:30 AM on Saturday morning.
Last year I thought I am getting used to the climate, but I was wrong. This year, summer seems even more tough, with heat and humidity squeezing out all my energy already early in the morning. It gets better only when inside and only if air con works properly. After five long and intense days at work, I find it hard to force myself to go outside on weekends, preferring a well air-conditioned room, stock of Häagen–Dazs ice cream in the fridge, and looking through travel booklets I take each time when passing through the airport rather than actually exploring Japan. Not in the peak of summer season at least, with some rare exceptions.
Maybe you can call this procrastination, where a number of things I want to do get postponed in exchange for lazy Saturday morning sipping my coffee in pajamas instead of getting at 5:00 AM to make it to an early train to somewhere, or for comfort of not suffering the heat and humidity outside. Hiking will have to wait…
When I lived in Paris, each morning on my way to work, I used to cross one of the bridges over Seine. Depending on the season, it would coincide with the sunrise, casting a beautiful morning light on the Eiffel tower and the Statue of Liberty. Each time I would think that I want to come here on weekend and take a photo, but I never did…
Since I came in Japan, one of the things I wanted to do was to go to see a lotus in bloom. The tricky part here is that it blooms for a few weeks from mid-July to early August, and very early in the morning, closing its blossoms after a few hours until the next morning. Just for that, Sankeien garden in Yokohama opens from 6:00 AM on weekends during those few weeks.
Maybe it was the fact that it may be my last chance, or maybe it was an evening on the rooftop cinema watching “The Walk”, reminding that if you have dreams (no matter how big or how small), you have to do something about them, but finally I put my alarm clock for 5:00 AM and take the first bus to Sankeien.
Did you know that lotus is considered a sacred flower and a spiritual symbol in Hindu and Buddhist cultures? At the same time, lotus stem is used in a number of Asian cuisines, including Japanese, and is believed to have numerous benefits to health.
Not sure what attracts many Japanese, whether Buddhism and the symbolic meaning of lotus flower, or just interest in nature photography, but it gets pretty crowded.
Though it is worth the effort, at least once.
Back home just in time for my morning coffee, I watch the city to get back to life for another hot summer day, and want to use the momentum to plan a few other things that have been waiting on the list for quite a while. Stay tuned!