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Birthday in Tokyo

I learned that I had only 5 days to prepare for a flight to Tokyo, and the 3 days that I was there coincided with my birthday and the full bloom of the cherry blossoms that season! My head was screaming of excitement!

I try to go to Japan once a year, but last year, I wasn’t expecting a trip there cause of grad school. I guess my fairy godmothers were listening and decided to grant my wish! It was only when I was already inside the train from Narita to Ueno, when I started seeing the uniform gray houses and the bursts of pink from the cherry blossoms, that it finally dawned on me that I’m in legit Tokyo.

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I usually go during the low season because I’m not fond of crowded tourist areas, but when I got to Ueno park where there is a high concentration of cherry blossoms, I realized that even the locals feel like tourists themselves. It turns out that these pink ornaments are present only for 2 weeks per year.

How can something so beautiful be so fleeting? Maybe it was made that way for us to value it more.

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The real reason why I’m in Tokyo is because I had to deliver a one day training on social entrepreneurship as part of the OFW program of the Ateneo School of Government. The program has existed for more than a decade and I was happy to have found the right partner last year to launch it in Japan.

I did my best to make it really fun and practical. I know the feeling of beings stuck in a lecture from morning ’til evening so I had to make it really engaging.

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During lunch time, they surprised me with a birthday cake! What made it more special was that after 4 hours of meeting them for the first time, they were already cheering me a happy birthday! I was really touched by their gesture.

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The next day, I was already set to leave. My train will be from Ueno to Narita and I still had time to spare so I walked around Ueno park again to look at the cherry blossoms. From afar, I can hear the strumming of a classical guitar but amplified all over the park. I finally saw where the sound was coming from.

Under the drizzling sky and the falling petals of a cherry tree, I saw the this artist strumming and tapping his guitar with so much soul that I was in awe for the next 20 minutes while he was playing. I think I even got teary eyed.

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I celebrated my birthday before by watching the sun rise from the ancient temples of Angkor – a metaphor for our desire to build lasting legacies. Cherry blossoms are the opposite of that. They teach us to savour every moment that we have cause something as beautiful as this life is fleeting, ephemeral.

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