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The Arrival of Spring

After my routine checkup at the hospital, I usually go home immediately afterwards. But since the weather was really nice today, I felt like taking a walk through the Kyoto Imperial Gardens on my way home.


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I was enjoying a leisurely stroll in the spacious garden, soothed by the beauty of the red and white plum tree flowers that had begun to bloom and the fragrance of the yellow wintersweet flowers. As I was walking, an elderly man asked me directions to a restaurant that had recently opened within the garden compound. I didn't know exactly where it was, so I checked the park map and another person explained that it was a little far away. Actually, it was on the other side of the park from where we were standing.


So I said to the elderly man, "Well, let's go there together! I've heard about this restaurant recently and have wanted to go there.”

He turned to me and said, "It would be wonderful if we could go together, but my legs are not so strong, and I can only walk very slowly.”

"Don't worry,” I answered, “The plum blossoms are beautiful, so let's walk there together and enjoy the view!”


We walked around looking at the flowers and talked about many things. He told me that he usually goes to the Kyoto Botanical Garden because he loves flowers, and he taught me that even though they look very similar, there is a difference between senryo (Sarcandra glabra) and manryo (Ardisia crenata). He also taught me about how the plum flowers differ around Kyoto. When we finally arrived at the restaurant, he offered me a warm glass of amazake (sweet sake) as a thank-you for walking with him. While we were drinking this amazake he also taught me about many different types of Kyoto vegetables. And he also told me that he had an untreatable heart condition and that his doctors explained to him that it was best for him to enjoy life as much as possible.


When I told him that I teach martial arts, he said, "Today's children should learn martial arts to learn about society. He said, "Some parents these days carry their babies in their arms with the baby's face toward their own body, but that way, when the child looks up, he or she can only see the parent's face. It's better to see society with the parents, not just the parents." There are many different ways of thinking about how to hold a child, but I felt that he had a point.


My children grew up in the countryside, and they were constantly held by many different people, taken care of by a number of different people, loved by some people just like his parents. These people would give them praise when they did good things, and would scold them when they did bad things. I think these experiences are very important for children to experience before they head out into the world on their own. Thanks to these experiences, they seem to have the ability to adjust to the region or country that they travel to, and feel comfortable with the people there.


There are some areas where such things are dangerous, but I think we should create a society where people do not need to worry about such dangers.


The meaning that is typically attached to wintersweet flowers, like the ones I saw at the Kyoto Imperial Garden is "Affection," similar to that of a parent for his or her child. It was a fragrance that permeated my heart even during this cold winter and told me that spring is just around the corner.

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