Chapter 11. Hanagasa Ondo (花笠音頭)
From the peninsula, you fly south to a long, skinny island. There you spot a ceremony happening under a grove of beautiful pink trees. You land your balloon, and are handed a colorful hat covered in petals...
After skipping stones and eating kimbap, the eldest Musikaru calls out towards the creek, ‘Come now, it’s time to move on and show our new friends the cherry blossom grove!’ The youngest Musikarus each toss one more pebble, wave goodbye to the siblings across the pond, and skip back to their basket. ‘Where is the cherry blossom grove?’ you inquire. ‘And what is happening there?’ The eldest Musikaru smiles. ‘It’s one of the grandest celebrations in all of the garden!’ ‘A cherry blossom grove,’ you think to yourself, and then say aloud, ‘I didn’t even know there were cherry trees in this garden.’ ‘Just wait and see!’ replies the second eldest Musikaru. ‘They are very easy to miss, because they only come out once a year, and only for a few very special days. if you’re not looking for them, you might never know they are there.’
With that, the Musikarus pack up their basket and float into the sky, with you and The Fox drifting close behind. You float over the creek, which becomes wider and wider until it leads back to the Ocean Pond. And there, in the Ocean Pond, you see that you are floating towards a long, skinny island. As you come closer to the island, some pink and white petals suddenly fly past your balloon. Just a few at first, and then eventually the petals are everywhere, landing in your basket, in your hair, between the Fox’s ears... more and more petals fly past you as you begin floating down onto the skinny island below.
There, on land, you finally see it -- a grove of the brightest pink trees you’ve ever seen, with petals drifting off the branches and swirling around in the air. You are speechless! It’s like something out of a dream. After gently landing your baskets near the grove, the youngest Musikaru climbs out and begins swirling and dancing in the petals. The eldest Musikaru looks around. ‘Ah, we’re right on time!’ says the eldest Musikaru. ‘You see, these blossoms only last a few days. They are here to tell us that it is springtime! But they fall and disappear just as quickly as they bloom.’ The eldest Musikaru looks up and continues. ‘This is a very special time of year. A time when we can let go of what has been ailing us, and move forward with a refreshed mind.’
As you are looking up at the bright pink flowers above, contemplating these words, you hear the sound of shuffling feet. You turn your head to see a wide-brimmed hat moving towards you, and underneath it, a smiling Raccoon! Looking beyond, you see a group of Raccoons in the distance, all wearing wide-brimmed hats, in the center of the falling petals of the cherry blossom grove.
‘Why, hello!’ says the Raccoon with a gentle smile and wide eyes. ‘Have you come here to join the festivities?’ Before you can answer, the second youngest Musikaru jumps up. ‘Yes we are!’ And looking in your direction, the second youngest Musikaru continues. ‘We’ve brought some friends with us.’ And then whispers, ‘Can you believe they have been living here their entire lives and have never seen the blossoms?’ You blush a little, and say, ‘I guess I’ve never looked closely enough, or maybe at the right time.’ The Smiling Raccoon replies, ‘Well, this is perfect, then. You’ve come just in time for the flower hat dance.’ ‘Another flower dance?’ you say out loud, although you meant to just think it in your head. ‘Why,’ replies the Raccoon, ‘have you visited the Sun Bears on the Lily Pad Peninsula?’ You and the Fox both nod your heads yes. ‘Well, here at the cherry blossoms, we have a whole other kind of dance.’ The Raccoon whispers to the side, ‘It’s more about the feet than the hands.’ Continuing at full volume, the Raccoon says, ‘But it definitely takes both dances to complete the Story of the Springtime.’ Your ears perk up. ‘Now, come, come!’
The Smiling Raccoon leads you, The Fox, and the Musikarus to join the others… a sea of wide-brimmed hats, decorated with pink and white flowers all around, and Raccoons of all different sizes underneath them. They are moving in similar motions, circling in place and circling around one another, moving their wide-brimmed hats around in circles too, accompanying a song that passes from one dancer to the next. The Smiling Raccoon reaches behind a tree and magically pulls out several more wide-brimmed hats, as if they were waiting for you all along. ‘Here you go,’ says the Raccoon, handing a hat to each one of you. ‘We decorate them with the petals falling from the trees. And the dance is easy to learn. It brings us all together in harmony.’
As the afternoon turns to dusk, you join in the celebration of the Flower Hat dance. You learn that the dance is all about circles, all about cycles, all about blooming and falling. You talk and laugh and sing and sometimes just admire the flowers themselves. Every once in a while, a dancer or singer will yell, ‘To new beginnings!’ and everyone cheers. You look up at the falling cherry blossom petals, and around you at the joyous characters brought together by this one tiny tree grove. You think of all the things you have seen for the first time here in your very own backyard, and the Story of the Springtime starts to become clearer to you.
Let's learn how to make a flower hat for this special springtime dance! Download these instructions created by Kristiana to make your very own hat. Check out some images of flower hats here!