This article is reproduced from the discontinued, but much loved Mainichi Waiwai column by Ryann Connell. Read more about this at the bottom of this article.
It’s cherry blossom viewing time again in Japan – but it shouldn’t be. And that’s causing plenty of headaches for those who make a buck during the few days that the country’s national flower is resplendent in its bloom, says Shukan Taishu (4/5).
Normally, cherry blossoms bloom in early April, turning Japan’s usually drab cities into seas of pink and setting off raucous parties beneath almost every cherry tree in the country.
But this year’s blossoms have already started coming out, causing disarray for those who count on the cherry blossom season, especially for many diligent Japanese who plan down to the last minute, it is almost as difficult to find flexibility as it is to say it.
“Every year, the cherry blossom front (news reports on the day the flowers are expected to appear) is a vital indicator for restaurants, travel agencies and foodstuff preparers who depend on the flower-viewing season to make money. They forecast flower-viewing crowds and work to meet the demand, but this year, things are a little strange,” the editor of a business magazine tells Shukan Taishu. “The unexpected early bloom has thrown the flower-viewing business into a panic. They’re coming up against problems they’ve never had to deal with before and it’s absolute bedlam.”
Travel agencies offering tours to popular cherry blossom sites have maintained their regular schedules, but are waiving pre-tour cancellation fees they would normally take for fear that the cherry blossoms will have already scattered in the wind by the time they take their tour groups to see them.
Department stores that usually make a bundle selling boxed lunches or sandwiches to revelers are expecting bigger than normal sales for late-March, but also considerable waste in early April because the food they’ve ordered won’t arrive until the parties are all over.
“Peach-girl companions,” escorts specializing in flower-viewing parties, are in short supply.
“All the old guys who make up our regulars have booked escorts for mid-March, much earlier than normal,” a spokesman for Enkai Okoku (Party Kingdom), a party caterer, tells Shukan Taishu. “The trouble is, that’s also the exact time all the university students we get to work as escorts are taking their graduation holidays, or getting ready for their new classes. We can’t find enough girls to fill our orders. We’ve got the business, but we have to turn away so many customers, it’s painful.”
Most Japanese companies and bureaucracies take in new employees from April 1, with the tenderfoots first job often being to spend all day protecting a place in a busy park for the office flower-viewing party.
Late March also represents the end of the financial year in Japan, so most workers are extremely busy and unable to go out to find a party spot, hurting those who can least afford it, such as the homeless.
“Every flower-viewing season, people from companies will come along and offer us food and booze if we agree to save a spot for them,” says a bum living in Tokyo’s Ueno Park, one of the capital’s prime cherry blossom viewing sites. “This year, the flowers have come so early, the park operators haven’t marked out the areas where people can party yet, so nobody has come along to ask us to get them some space.”
But the absence of new employees has opened a door of opportunity for others.
“We’re normally flat out with removal work in March, but this year we’re busiest with saving spots under cherry trees for company parties,” a spokesman for 24-hour handyman company Good Liver Service tells Shukan Taishu. “We get paid 2,000 yen an hour and have been asked to work at various times ranging from the middle of the night to 10 in the morning. Nights are still cold, but we’re giving absolutely everything to find and protect good party spots.”
(The Mainichi Waiwai column ran online from April 19, 2001 – June 21, 2008. It was a much loved form of entertainment amongst foreigner in and outside of Japan. To any reader it was obviously not serious news, but it was a set of articles that portrayed quite well how the Japanese tabloids actually write about their own country. In 2008, a small number of Japanese people bought it to the attention of rival news groups that Mainichi was running an anti-Japan column on its website. With the bad publicity, Mainichi was forced to shut the page down, and take punitive measures against the journalists that were working on it, claiming that it was receiving opinions that were critical of the column, such as “its contents are too vulgar” and “the stories could cause Japanese people to be misunderstood abroad”. A perfect example of how Japanese consider what they write in their own script to be an acceptable secret code, that the rest of the world cant understand. When that same tabloid rubbish gets inconveniently translated to English to make light of some aspects of the Japanese people, it gets canned. Stippy.com finds this unacceptable, and will reproduce as much of the Waiwai content as possible in order to bring it once again to our computer screens for a good laugh. Of course we claim no credit for this content, and attribute it to it’s writers who were former Mainichi employees. Waiwai in its true and glorious form has been discontinued, but it’s legacy will live on at stippy.com for all to enjoy.)