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Enjoying life to the fullest during cherry-blossom viewing time

by Amy Chavez

Imagine an entire old folks home on sake. That’s what living on this island has been like ever since the cherry blossoms opened up. The first cherry-blossom viewing started last Sunday and the party hasn’t stopped.

So many people come to Shiraishi Island to view the cherry blossoms at Shimei Shrine, located in the side of the mountain, that this year they’ve strung lanterns for nighttime viewing as well.

I think the reason people here party so much is that they’re old. They’ve worked hard their whole lives and when they turned 60, they had a Eureka moment: “My God, we’re gonna die some day!” And they decided to take control of their lives and to live life to the fullest. There is never a dull moment in the pursuit of life on this island.

So it should be no surprise that some of us were sharing a 4-liter cask of wine on the road in front of San-chan’s bar the other day. The road, which separates the beach from the bar, has traffic all summer long, but during the off-season it is busier as a place for the kids to play hopscotch and as a gathering place for the adults. Sometimes, it even becomes a stage.

While drinking our wine, we were watching Masashi-san paint the front of San-chan’s bar. This year they’d added something new: the name of the bar in English! This was the result of a gaijin who came out recently and couldn’t find the place because he couldn’t read the hiragana sign.

Within a few moments, the postman came by. He stopped his van in the middle of the road and came over for a glass of wine. A couple of glasses later, he got back in his van and went on his merry way.

Then the grocer came by on his motorbike. He did not stop, but waved to us as he passed, on his way to make a delivery.

Then Harada-san and one of his “minshuku” guests came by. They had been rock climbing, and told us, while sipping some wine, about their adventures.

A few glasses later, they tottered away. Next Junko came by walking her dog, Larc. She didn’t have any wine but the dog did. He liked it so much, he even licked the spilled wine drops on the pavement.

Next a high-school girl came by on her bicycle. She was still in uniform as she was on her way back from school. She stopped, checked her cell phone e-mail, and had a glass of wine.

By now, the grocer was on his way back from his delivery. He stopped and had a glass of wine before weaving on his way.

Finally, the sign was finished, the wine was finished and the day was finished. But that didn’t stop anyone.

Next, we all went to Shimei Shrine for nighttime cherry-blossom viewing.

If you think that was a lot of drinking, you should have seen the islanders the week before. After the cherry blossom viewing party at the shrine, four drunks laid on the road in front of San-chan’s and let a guy jump over them with his motorbike.