Japan's beloved cherry blossoms help dispel some disaster gloom

Sat Apr 9, 2011 8:33am EDT
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By Paul Eckert

TOKYO (Reuters) - After the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster struck last month, Japanese were asked to scrap celebrations for the beloved cherry blossom season and practice self-restraint.

But as the annual pink wave that heralds spring rolled up the Japanese archipelago to Tokyo this weekend, the campaign for "jishuku" lost out to appeals to shake off the funereal mood and partake in traditional, rice wine-fueled "sakura" parties, for the sake of the nation's psyche, and economy.

"Too much self-restraint will strip away peace of mind and plenitude from everyday life, and destroy the nation's vitality. This will drag down economic activity, which will hinder recovery efforts in disaster areas," said the conservative Yomiuri Shimbun in an editorial.

Far from Tokyo, politicians and businessmen in the shattered cities of northern Japan are saying the same thing, prompted by worries that a gloomy nation will take much longer to recover from the psychological and economical effects of the disaster.

Japanese officials had canceled rock concerts, sporting events and other entertainment after the March 11 quake.

"For the disaster-struck areas to recover their vitality, the entire Japanese economy needs to be vibrant," said Yoshihiro Murai, the governor of Miyagi, the prefecture closest to the epicenter.

"I would like to see a limit to extreme self-restraint," he told local newspapers.

Up in Miyagi, third-generation sake, or rice wine, brewer Kaichiro Saito, 52, lost a shop and recipes dating back to when his grandfather started the business in 1903 in the March 11 tsunami that obliterated the fishing port of Kesennuma.   Continued...