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A Cinematic Haiku: ‘The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom’


Directed by Lucy Walker (and musicalized by Moby), this documentary creates a narrow analogy between the social rebirth that takes place after a tsunami and the blooming of the sakura

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom is an ode to destruction and rebirth. The survivors of the areas devastated by the tsunami that ravaged Japan in 2010 find courageousness in the blossoming sakura, trees that to them embody much more than beauty and transition.

Directed by Lucy Walker and musicalized by Moby, the documentary interlaces amateur films from the moment the wave began engulfing houses and inhabitants, and a poetic photography of the blossoming trees. “Mono No Aware” is a Japanese aesthetic and spiritual term that impeccably describes the subject of the film. This expression literally means “the pathos of things”; which can also be translated as empathy for things, an awareness of impermanence charged with “gentle sadness” or melancholy. This is the symbolic nature of cherry blossoms, which have a different name that describes each stage of the blooming process and which completely shroud with tiny petals the psyche of the observer.

“Beautiful but not splendid”, the sakura comfort Japan. The documentary shows horror and beauty, but horror is soon forgotten —as one of the interviewees promptly notes— when spring begins charged with unreality. In The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom we learn that the Japanese associate their memories with the blossoming of the sakura, and these are their happiest memories.

“Everybody sees the cherry blossoms in a different manner, according to how they feel at the time”, explain of the film’s sakura keepers. “If you feel peace, you will see the tree as peacefulness, if you feel angry; you will see the tree as anger. The cherry blossom is the tree that sympathizes with you.” At this moment, the emotional situation of the island is related to its hope of reconstructing its ruins with the impressive survival of these blooming trees.

Most of the sakura that stood in the path of the wave somehow managed to survive, as they did after the radiation of Fukushima —just like every single one of its inhabitants. It goes without saying that this has strengthened their bonds and it has also been an endless source of comfort. “If plants survive, humans should also do so”, says someone interviewed for the documentary.


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