After the cold winter, the Japanese eagerly await spring, which arrives with cherry blossoms or “Sakura."
Cherry blossoms are not only the “national flower” of Japan, but they harvest a very deep meaning in the hearts of all Japanese people.
Symbolically, Cherry Blossoms depict a fallen samurai, whose life was short but beautiful like the cherry blossoms, while falling cherry blossoms are associated with the sacrifice of patriotic youth, during the war.
Metaphorically, cherry blossoms symbolize the transient nature of mortality, and many famous Japanese poets were highly inspired to write beautiful poetry under the cherry blossoms.
In Japan, these pretty pink and white flowers are first sighted in warm areas as Okinawa in the south and gradually, the rose colored cloud ascends northward towards Hokkaido, as the weather becomes warmer and warmer.
Hanami (Hana = flower; Mi= view/ look at), or “Cherry Blossom Viewing” is a unique, Japanese custom of picnicking under the Sakura trees in early and mid-April. Every year, people flock to nearby parks, gardens or famous Hanami spots with homemade lunch boxes, alcohol or portable BBQ sets, to party under the sakura trees! Most Japanese associate Cherry blossoms with the “celebration and appreciation of life," so it is very rare to find a Japanese person who has not gone to “Hanami” in spring. In peak season of full bloom, competition to occupy the best spots and traffic jams around popular “Hanami” spots are a very common sight all over Japan, but everyone is eager to be a part of this cultural tradition that reminds them of their Japanese roots.
Hanami originated thousands of years ago, from the traditional Buddhist culture of “Mono no aware” which means extreme beauty and quick death, symbolizing mortality.
In Japan, spring is also the beginning of the fiscal year and school year, which pleasantly coincides with the cherry blossom season of new beginnings and hope.
Almost all public institutions and parks in Japan have “Sakura” trees, and it seems nature envelopes every new beginning in its pink, sakura cloak.
“When cherry blossoms scatter...no regrets”-
Kobayashi Issa, Japanese Haiku Poet