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Kajii Motojiro’s “Under the Cherry Trees” – A Poignant Exploration of Life and Death Amidst Sakura

The cherry blossom season has come to Japan again this year.

Every Japanese person looks forward to the arrival of this beautiful season and loves the fleeting beauty of the moment, which will be gone in a week or so. I too love the cherry blossom season, and this year I am grateful for the occasional cold rain that has prevented the cherry blossoms from falling for a while.
The Japanese love of cherry blossoms gives rise to a unique sense of life and death in the background, which is expressed very well in the short piece “Under the Cherry Trees” by Motojiro, Kajii.

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Kajii Motojiro’s short story, “Under the Cherry Trees,” is a haunting tale that delves into the human condition, while using the cherry blossoms, or Sakura, as a backdrop for exploring the themes of life and death. In this blog, we will delve into the symbolism and significance of this classic piece of Japanese literature and examine the unique way in which Motojiro uses the Sakura to weave a poignant story about the fleeting nature of life.
The setting:
“Under the Cherry Trees” takes place during the height of the Sakura season, in a park filled with blooming cherry trees. The protagonist, an unnamed man, becomes intrigued by a mysterious, unknown corpse hidden beneath the pink blankets of Sakura petals. The contrast between the vibrant, lively flowers and the lifeless body creates an unsettling atmosphere, which serves as a powerful backdrop for the story.
Symbolism of Sakura in the story:
Motojiro masterfully employs the Sakura as a potent symbol for the transient nature of life. The cherry blossoms, in all their fragile beauty, serve as a reminder of the impermanence of life and the inevitability of death. The short-lived blossoms are used as a metaphor for the fleeting nature of human existence, which creates a sense of urgency and appreciation for the present moment.
In “Under the Cherry Trees,” the protagonist becomes increasingly fascinated by the corpse, which he views as both an object of repulsion and a source of strange beauty. The presence of the corpse amidst the cherry blossoms highlights the inextricable link between life and death, as well as the impermanence of both states.
Moreover, the protagonist’s fascination with the corpse serves as a reminder of our own mortality, and the story ultimately implores readers to appreciate the beauty of life, despite its fleeting nature.
The impact of “Under the Cherry Trees”:
Kajii Motojiro’s “Under the Cherry Trees” is a thought-provoking short story that leaves a lasting impression on readers. By juxtaposing the transient beauty of Sakura with the stark reality of death, Motojiro creates a powerful, haunting narrative that encourages introspection and contemplation.
The story serves as a reminder to cherish the present moment and the beauty of life, while also acknowledging the inescapable reality of death. The Sakura, with its delicate beauty and ephemeral existence, becomes a symbol of the human condition, making “Under the Cherry Trees” an unforgettable piece of literature that resonates deeply with readers.
Kajii Motojiro’s “Under the Cherry Trees” is a poignant exploration of life and death set against the stunning backdrop of Sakura season. Using the cherry blossoms as a powerful symbol for the fleeting nature of life, the story encourages readers to savor the present moment and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. The captivating narrative and powerful themes make “Under the Cherry Trees” a literary masterpiece that will continue to endure and captivate readers for generations to come.

[ “Under the Cherry Trees” by Motojiro, Kajii ]

[Aozora Bunko Automatic Translation Edition] Motojiro, Kajii / Under The Cherry Trees