The Street of a Thousand Blossoms

Irene Gallo posted this picture of an origami tree on her blog yesterday. She said it is of 500 creatures flying about a dragon.

Isn’t it the most amazing origami Christmas tree you’ve seen? I was so happy Carl told me about it. I have two little origami trees in my own home. One is of cranes, and one is of little three dimensional prisms, but neither can compare to the beauty of this magnificent work.

Today has been a beautiful day of snowfall, with temperatures of around 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Now that is what I call a perfect day. After our dog took us for a walk, and I watched the first half of the Rose Bowl in which the fighting Illini were stomped on by the apparently better fighting Trojans of USC, I was finally able to finish The Street of a Thousand Blossoms by Gail Tsukiyama.

You may remember that this is part of the first place prize for the Japanese Literature Challenge. Now, the person who wins this won’t have the glorious moment of cracking the binding open because I have read it first, but I promise I took care with it. You can barely see the little smudge of chocolate on one page.

Similar to a Russian novel, it required some attention on my part to learn the names of the characters which seem like a string of consonants and very few vowels. But as this novel unfolded, I became quite familiar with each well developed person.

The story centers around two brothers, Hiroshi and Kenji, who are being brought up by their grandparents. Hiroshi’s dream is to become a champion sumo wrestler while Kenji dreams of creating the hand carved masks for Noh theater.

We follow their dreams and aspirations, their failures and successes, the people they meet and women they marry, throughout the novel. It transcends culture in that the themes are applicable to all of us: sorrow, achievement, death and fear. Yet it is not a book of despair by any means, rather one which I found empowering for overcoming the “little tricks life plays on us” as the author described.

I loved this book not only for its character development, and life lessons, but because Gail Tsukiyama has interspersed Japanese words throughout every page until I am so familiar with them I feel that I have a very small understanding of Japanese vocabulary.

I leave you with two quotes I found quite inspiring while reading this book:

“It’s through the hardships you endure that you’ll gain real strength.”

and…

“Every day of your lives you must always be sure what you’re fighting for.”

Now we just have to determine what we’re fighting for ourselves. And, of course, see who wins this book.