Tag Archives: Hanami

Cherry Blossom Time

Happy Easter, Happy Passover, and Happy Cherry Blossom Time! I hope you are having a joyous spring!

Native to Japan, the Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) is cultivated extensively and is also found growing wild on plains and mountains countrywide. For more than ten centuries, and continuing with no less enthusiasm today, cherry blossom time has been cause for joyful celebration that is deeply integrated in the Japanese culture.

When cherry blossoms begin to fall heavily, the flurry of blossoms is called “cherry snowstorm.” The following is a traditional Japanese song that has been passed down for generations.

Sakura

Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms

As far as you can see.

Across yayoi skies

Is it mist? Is it clouds?

Ah, the fragrance!

Let us go, Let us go and see!

To see a cherry blossom snowstorm:

In the Japanese language the cherry is called “sakura,” which is generally believed to be a corruption of the word “sukuya” (blooming). Poets and artists strive to express the loveliness of its flowers in words and artistry. Called the flower of flowers, when the Japanese use the word “hane” (flower) it has come to mean sakura, and no other flower. Since the Heian period “hanami” has referred to cherry blossom viewing; the term was used to describe cherry blossom parties in the Tale of Gengi. Aristocrats wrote poetry and sang songs under the flowering trees for celebratory flower viewing parties. The custom soon spread to the samurai society and by the Edo period, hanami was celebrated by all people.

From ancient times, during early spring planting rituals, falling blossoms symbolized a bounteous crop of rice. Beginning with the Heian period (794–1185), when the imperial courtiers of Kyoto held power, the preference for graceful beauty and the appreciation of cherry blossoms for beauty’s sake began to evolve. The way in which cherry petals fall at the height of their beauty, before they have withered and become unsightly, and the transience of their brief period of blooming, assumed symbolism in Buddhism and the samurai warrior code.

The delicacy and transience of the cherry blossom have poignant and poetic appeal, providing themes for songs and poems since the earliest times. The motif of the five petal cherry blossoms is used extensively for decorative arts designs, including kimonos, works in enamel, pottery, and lacquer ware. Cherry tree wood is valued for its tight grain and is a lustrous reddish brown when polished. The wood is used to make furniture, trays, seals, checkerboards, and woodblocks for producing color wood block prints.

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