When I visited the Shinto shrines of Kyoto a few years back I admired what looked like unseasonably early blossoms on rows and rows of trees. It wasn’t until I approached I realized they weren’t flowers at all, but prayers that had been artfully tied to the otherwise barren branches. I never forgot the perfect union of spirit and nature I felt that day, and the puzzled admiration it kissed awake in my heart.

Being of Japanese descent I have often searched my features and heart for clues to this strange and forever-foreign culture, yearning be united with this piece of myself. The morning I heard news of the earthquake my heart stopped…

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