Something beautiful happened on my way home from work the other day.
I pass by a little park every day, and I noticed that the Sakura trees had started blooming. Not Ume trees, but proper cherry blossoms! It must be an early blooming variety, as it’s still a bit chilly and extremely early, but I was still really happy to see them.
I walked in to take a few pictures, and all of a sudden a little boy ran up to me. He must have been about 4 or 5, and was completely adorable. He pretty much looked exactly like Yohei from Chi’s Sweet Home, tiny and cute and polite.
“Whatcha doin’?” he asked, in kid-accented Japanese.
I paused for a moment, and then had a beautiful, shining realization–I could talk to him. He wasn’t my student, so there was no moral obligation to SPEAK ENGLISH. I could respond to him guilt free, and he would understand me! And my Japanese has improved enough lately that I might even understand him!
By the time I processed all this, he was already chatting away.
“The trees are full of cherry blossoms, ne?” he said.
“I know! It’s pretty, isn’t it?” I responded.
“I’m like a kitty!” he said, as he brushed his cheek against the blossoms. My heart pretty much melted into a puddle at this point.
Then we played on the jungle gym together, and it was pretty much the best day ever.
“Climb up there! Jump off! Look at me!”
I was a bit worried that his mom might freak, whenever she finally appeared, and maybe she did seem a tiny bit weirded out to find a grown stranger jumping around on the monkey bars and chatting with little Yohei. My friends were joking that the next time I go back to the park there will be giant “Watch out for foreigners!” signs up, with a cartoon picture of me complete with blonde hair and blue eyes (that’s how I’ll know it’s me, of course!)
That being said though, communicating with this adorable little kid, being able to understand and be understood (in Japanese!), and most importantly just having fun with the sun shining and the cherry blossoms waving gently in the breeze? Beautiful.