Forgotten Sakura

The forgotten cherry blossoms of HISEE


A milestone birthday is always a time to pause for thought. My birthday is on March 27. Many people have, from Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen to Quentin Tarantino, so this is nothing special in terms of the calendar, but this date at the beginning of spring has a special meaning. March 27 is “さくらの日”, the Sakura Day celebrating the annual cherry blossom (桜桜). This period of blooming cherry trees from around mid-March to the end of April has a very special cultural significance in Japan.

I was reminded of the tradition of celebrating Sakura through a hanami (花見, “flower viewing”) with colleagues, friends or family on my birthday. I was exactly half the age I am today when I started at Hitachi Semiconductors Europe (HISEE) in 1994. In the four years I was allowed to work there, I learned a lot, both in terms of work and culture.

Sakura, Sakura

This also includes something that partly explains the reason for this article and the link to the cherry blossoms. A term that is called mono no aware (物の哀れ) in Japanese and is difficult to translate clearly into a foreign language. My former Japanese colleagues may forgive me if I attempt to translate the concept here. “mono” can be translated as thing or things and “aware” means pathos, feeling the deep emotion that something can instil in you, while the “no” indicates the property an object or thing posesses. “mono no aware” therefore carries the meaning of “the Ah-ness of things”, the feeling that things instil in us and at the same time points to the transience of things. A feeling of melancholy, sadness, but acceptance and the memory of beautiful moments.

Cherry blossoms and me

The falling cherry blossoms are a classic motif. Because the japanese cherry tree bears no fruit, everything is focused on the exuberant splendor and beauty of the blossoms that fall from the tree at the moment of their completion. Enjoying the moment of perfect beauty, joy and at the same time accepting that the fleeting blossoms cover the ground as pink snow and fade away.

Cherry blossoms on the ground

Why am I writing this? HISEE is also history. The wafer fab was sold many years ago, around 2011. When I started there, RAM chips were produced, at a capacity of 16 MByte (Megabytes, people!) and they were even more expensive than their weight in gold back then. I left HISEE end of 1997 to pursue new paths, but the experiences, conversations and things and concepts I learned from my Japanese colleagues remain with me to this day. Of course, many cherry trees had been planted on the company premises, which gave rise to a Lower Bavarian Sakura every spring. We enjoyed the blossoms and even after my time there, I came by every few years in spring to look at the flowers.

Cherry tree at the former HISEE area

This brings us back to the concept of “mono no aware”, because the buildings of the once mighty Fab will also soon be history. A residential construction project on the site will make this piece of Bavarian-Japanese history disappear, and the large building with the former clean room will probably be converted to house a brewery according to plans of the city. Then perhaps the cherry trees will also disappear and once again we will see the transience of things that we have to accept. änglichkeit der Dinge, die man akzeptieren muss.

Who knows if there will be “Sakura, Sakura” again next spring in the west of Landshut. I am now twice as old as I was when I worked at HISEE and much of what I have learned, not only in the field of intercultural work, has helped me over the last 30 years. Perhaps someone from my circle of colleagues from back then will read this blog post and enjoy the pictures of the HISEE cherry blossoms. And for everything else from Kaizen to the right way to eat Sushi, I end here with a heartfelt “Domo Arigato Gozaimasu”!

Cherry blossom leaves in the palm of my hand

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