6 Ways Japanese Spring Can Cure The Blues (Like It Cured Mine)
How Japan's Blooming Season Helped A Kiwi Girl Change
Spring is all about new beginnings. And this is how this special season in Japan helped me change my perspective.
Until arriving in Japan, the only winter I had ever experienced was the “winter” in New Zealand. I use quotation marks here because the icy Japanese winter hit me hard. In short, I became extremely homesick. And though I had been previously warned of the “winter blues” from preparation booklets and brochures, nothing warned me that, come winter, I’d be turning an ugly shade of blue-grey.
In my 15 odd years of residing in New Zealand, I had never experienced a winter like the one in rural Japan. The sun set at 4 p.m. Millions of icicles formed along the front of my car’s bonnet. My village became uncomfortably silent. My home turned a temperature colder than my fridge. And worst of all, I’d see social media pictures after pictures of my friends and family enjoying the matchless Kiwi summer.
I lost the desire to socialize with friends and I lost my creative spirit. I stopped updating my blog and I couldn’t be bothered making dinner. During the dark, cold and seemingly monotonous days, I found myself living both my work and personal life, closed off in literal hibernation (often with a packet of crisps). I was so completely depressed. Until I wasn’t.
The coming of the Japanese spring had a miraculous effect on my mental health. The first time I stepped out of my home and the air did not pierce through my bare skin, I felt my clenched fists start to loosen. Like a magic spell, spring, with its warm air, its colorful flowers, its blue skies, and its marshmallow clouds made me feel strong, even if I wasn’t.
I didn’t realize it then, but looking back now, I can now see the improvements in my mental state were due to several Japanese spring factors. And if you, reading this, are in some state of mind that makes you blue all day long (like the still-new-to-Japan-me), please read on about the six simple ways that the arrival of spring can make you feel so.much.better.
1. Commit to spring cleaning
Though Japanese leave their “spring cleaning” for Obon in August, when it comes to decluttering and minimalism, Japanese are world-renowned experts. Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is now a best-seller. According to Kondo, if it does not spark joy — get rid of it! Though I did not go to such extreme measures (beige underwear is not joyous), I clearly remember spring cleaning. As it turned out, discarding things I no longer needed, allowed for the things I truly liked in my life to resurface. Further, according to science, tidying up in general is an instant mood booster and a clean and tidy kitchen makes us snack less — out of sight, out of mind, they say!
2. Go out and do Hanami
There is no better way of saying a big fat sayonara to winter and welcoming spring than a hanami — the long-standing Japanese tradition. Hanami, or “flower viewing,” is all about appreciating the temporal beauty of nature. Japanese gather under cherry trees for food, songs, companionship and of course, the unmatched beauty of sakura (but mostly food). I remember having the most memorable hanami last spring. I was with loved ones (recommended but not necessary) and we were all so full and so happy. I mean, how could we not be? Surrounded by such transcendent beauty.
3. Get a whiff of spring air
Take advantage of the extended daylight and go for a walk or jog in the evening. First, exercise releases endorphins and endorphins make us happy. Second, spring (and autumn) are the most comfortable Japanese seasons to be outdoorsy. The first time I rode my bike after the harsh winter, I came back home and started writing again. As I said, the spring air did wonders for me.
4. Put your tourist hat on and sightsee
True, this is Japan’s busiest season for sightseeing, but don’t let the large crowds scare you away. In fact, I like to think of it as being invited to a huge out-of-control (but super fun) party. Plus, there are very few occasions more idyllic than walking on historic paths once tread by princesses and Samurais, surrounded by full-bloom cherry trees.
5. Decorate your home with fresh flowers
Always a treat. Yes, a little pricy in the city, but in my opinion, definitely worth all the yens. It is unbelievable what life and loveliness a bouquet, bunch, or a simple stem can bring to an interior space. Coming home from a hard day’s work to a room adorned with fresh flowers is therapeutic beyond belief.
6. Pet a furry friend
Japan is jam packed with furry friends and again, spring (and autumn) are the seasons when these cutie pies start to reappear. For me, it was going up to literally every single one of these pets and asking their owners if I could pet them. No wonder scientists have proved fur babies have the ability to inspire and motivate us, especially in our darkest moments.
Has the Japanese spring affected you in a similar way? Do you have any Japan spring-unique tips for uplifting the mood? Share them in the comments.