When Blossoms Fall - pages 20 to 31

Summary of pages 20 to 31

These pages present intricate family dynamics, the contrast between cultures, and generational perspectives within a Japanese expatriate family living in Australia:

Michiko’s elegance and sacrifice: Every Christmas, Michiko wears her kimono to the consul general's party. Her husband, Hajime, prefers her in traditional attire. Hajime notices over time that Michiko laughs less around him. There's a sense of emotional distance growing between them. The story highlights Michiko's sacrifices. Her father was killed by an American GI, and she raised her brothers after the war, sacrificing her own education for theirs.

Michiko’s culinary skills and position: Michiko's culinary talent is her way of adapting to the Australian setting. Her meals are frequented by top Japanese businessmen. They appreciate her ingenuity, indicating her pivotal role in hosting and socialising.  A significant man who recognises her culinary talents is Yoshida san. This forms a contrast to Hajime, who doesn’t seem to have the same discerning palate.

Yuri's perspective: Yuri feels the tension between her parents, especially regarding their uncertain future in Sydney. She envies her friend Edwina's stable, seemingly ideal family. Yuri reflects on cultural differences between her family and Edwina's, especially in showcasing affection and memories. Edwina’s family openly displays affection, while Yuri’s family maintains a more reserved, traditional stance.

Yuri and Hajime: There is a clash between Yuri, the daughter who has just entered high school, and her father over a simple domestic matter—serving a drink. However, it becomes evident that the disagreement represents deeper issues. Yuri's transition into womanhood is signaled by her first menstruation, an event traditionally celebrated in Japanese culture with red rice. Her resistance to this ritual and her overall defiant demeanor underline the emerging distance between her and her traditional parents. This distance is further emphasised when the setting shifts between Sydney and Yokohama. Yuri's experiences in both places highlight her struggle with identity. In Sydney, she grapples with being the "odd one out," whereas in Yokohama, she feels overwhelmed by conformity. Her school life and daily train commutes further accentuate her sense of displacement.

Yuri and history: The narrative then shifts to focus on an evening with guests, revealing family dynamics and the influence of Tokugawa. His interactions, particularly with Yuri, carry a sense of underlying tension. Through Tokugawa, the story delves into historical aspects, bringing in the theme of the kamikaze pilots from World War II. The plot suggests Tokugawa's opportunistic tendencies as he leverages historical artifacts and memories for personal gain. The narrative culminates with Tokugawa's plans for a museum, hinting at larger societal issues concerning memory, history, and identity. The story masterfully brings out the theme of war's lasting psychological impact, reflected in the poignant line by Stanley Hauerwas, "We cannot get rid of war because war has captured the habits of our imaginations."

Discussion questions for pages 20 to 31