Cherry trees and their blossoms in Japan go by the name of sakura and carry a great cultural meaning and significance for the people of Japan. The word sakura would translate as the Japanese flowering cherry tree in English whereas the blossoms are referred to as cherry blossoms. The Japanese cherry blossom tree is not only native to Japan, it is indigenous to other Asian countries as well including China, Korea and India. Japan alone has over two hundred cultivars of the cherry blossom tree.
Flower viewing was a phenomenon that the Japanese adopted from China during the Heiran Period. Poets, singers, aristocrats and members of ordinary households would come together to gather around cherry blossom trees and appreciate their beauty. Over the years the cherry blossom tree became a highly revered species in Japan.
Whereas the cherry blossom tree represented the female form in China it took on a much deeper meaning in Japanese culture. The Japanese observed the life cycle of the cherry blossom tree and drew a similitude between the nature of the blossoming tree with human life in general.
The cherry blossom tree is known for its short yet brilliant blooming season which ends with an inevitable fall to the ground. For the Japanese masses this drama staged by the natural process of the tree was reminiscent of the natural way of human life where rise and fall are the main elements in limited time.
Along with being a metaphoric representation of life in general the cherry blossom tree is believed to have deep connections with Buddhism. According to the dharma the tree was associated with the concept of ‘mono no aware’ ever since the 18th century.
The richly symbolic sakura served as inspiration for many artists who produced art work based around the Japanese cherry blossom tree. From musical performances to stage plays and amazing paintings to profound poetry the cherry blossom tree has managed to make its mark in many ways on Japanese culture and tradition.
Today the cherry blossom tree is used as a symbol on many contemporary items as well. The representation of the cherry blossom tree in the form of patterns or logos can be seen on clothing accessories, stationary and even dishware.
The Japanese have a wide collection of symbols that are believed to bring them good luck. The cherry blossom tree is one of the most popular good luck symbols in Japanese tradition. Generally speaking the tree tends to evoke a positive response in anyone who tries to associate themselves with any aspect of the Japanese cherry blossom tree.
Chinese Cherry Blossom
For the Chinese the cherry blossom is a very significant symbol of power. Typically it represents a feminine beauty and sexuality and often holds an idea of power or feminine dominance. Within the language of herbs and herbal lore of the Chinese the cherry blossom is often the symbol of love. Femininity is represented by the blossoms.
Japanese Cherry Blossom
For the Japanese the cherry blossom holds very different meaning. The cherry blossom is a very delicate flower that blooms for a very short time. For the Japanese this represents the transience of life. This concept ties in very deeply with the fundamental teachings of Buddhism that state all life is suffering and transitory. The Japanese have long held strong to the Buddhist belief of the transitory nature of life and it is very noble to not get too attached to a particular outcome or not become emotional because it will all pass in time.
The fallen cherry blossom is not taken lightly in Japanese symbolism either. It often represents the beauty of snow and there are many connections made in Japanese literature or poetry to a fallen cherry blossom and snow. This also has been extended to the life of a warrior whose life was ended early in battle.
In the Japanese culture, the cherry blossom represents the cycle of life and how our lives blossom and fall. The blossoms represent the beautiful but transient nature of life.
The cherry blossom is Japan’s national flower and the synonymous with the word flower. Generally, the cherry blossom is a felicitous symbol. Yet there is also a dark side. To old-time samurai, there was no greater glory than to die on the battlefield like scattered cherry blossoms. Resplendent in full bloom, cherry blossoms seldom last more than a week, and they are easily swept away with one strong wind, a fleeting beauty that suggests purity and transience.
I’ve loved cherry blossoms since I was a little girl, and the strength and power associated with them, together with their fragile and transcient nature seem to me like a yin and yang, an unbreakable connection in the circle of life. For me, writing is an inextricable part of my life, and I love the experience of the petal storms of words which come when the writing pours out.