Amid radiation concerns, Tokyo goes cherry-blossom viewing

Most Tokyo residents, who could not afford to join the exodus of foreigners last month, are trying to follow routine schedules. Students returned to elementary schools Friday, in many cases mixing with new classmates whose families have fled the disaster zones up north.

In new suits and fresh haircuts, new employees are beginning lives in corporations. Companies, which began their fiscal year April 1, are trying to stick to long-term plans despite a short-term outlook of power shortages, reduced domestic demand and international concerns over radiation in Japanese products.

With Japan facing its toughest challenge since the war, many find strength in the rituals of cherry-blossom viewing, called hanami, which, beginning in the 8th century, runs deeper than the temporary disruptions to the rhythms of life in Japan.

Yet some people sitting under the sakura cherry trees say they are contemplating major life changes. Jonzi Ikehata, a drummer associated with the Sexystones crowd, said he might move away from Tokyo to Kyushu island in southern Japan, “because they have no earthquakes or tsunamis there, and not many nuclear reactors.”

Others said they have no choice but to make the best of it in Tokyo, where the economy is still better than other regions.

Seeking to reassure his friends worried about Japan’s future, soft-spoken rock icon Kenichi Asai, who has made more than 50 albums with various groups, points to the dirt under a sakura tree and said:

“We Japanese will survive, because we come from here, and we will always be here.”

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