How do the blossoms contrast with the modernity that was surrounding it?

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The blossoming cherry trees in Yukio Mishima's "Swaddling Clothes " are at the heart of the city, in a long, narrow park bordering the moat of the Imperial Palace. They are therefore a symbol of natural beauty in the midst of the squalid, modern city but also, like...

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The blossoming cherry trees in Yukio Mishima's "Swaddling Clothes" are at the heart of the city, in a long, narrow park bordering the moat of the Imperial Palace. They are therefore a symbol of natural beauty in the midst of the squalid, modern city but also, like the palace itself, of Japanese tradition in the midst of foreign influence. Cherry blossom is a common subject of Japanese woodblock prints and other forms of traditional art, such as embroidery. It is also used to decorate important buildings, inside and out, though when Toshiko passed a theater earlier in the story "it was depressingly obvious that the cherry blossoms decorating the front of the theater were merely scraps of white paper."

Even in the park, amongst the real cherry blossoms, Toshiko finds the same mixture of squalor and beauty, tradition and modernity. The purity of the white blossoms is marred by the garish colored light-bulbs, shining dully between the blossoms in place of paper lanterns. Most of the flower-viewers have left by the time Toshiko arrives at the park, but despite the emptiness, there is still garbage underfoot, paper and glass bottles to be kicked aside. The story is full of contrasts, many of which, as is often the case in Mishima's work, highlight the aesthetic and cultural destruction of Japan by the hostile forces of Westernization and modernization.

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