The image of pink or white cherry blossoms is truly beautiful.
If you are lucky enough to witness this alluring natural sight, you are bound to enjoy it. Blooming in the spring, cherry blossoms add a touch of color to any garden. The plant is sometimes referred to as Japanese cherry (see also our article on bonsai trees). The plant may also be known as sakura.
As you can tell from the name, the tree is associated with Japan and cherry blossoms are the country’s national flower. Cherry blossoms also hold symbolic significance in Japan. If you are delighted by these plants, we will explore their meaning.
Cherry Blossoms: What Are They?
Cherry blossoms are these small and dainty flowers. They tend to be pink, though they can also be found in whitish hues. They can be seen during the springtime, specifically around March or April.
During this period, cherry blossoms will add some color and vibrancy to Japanese gardens (see also ‘13 Best Kyoto Japanese Gardens To Enjoy‘). Originally from Asia, cherry blossoms can now be seen throughout the world.
These flowers are not just beautiful to look at, but can also be used in cooking. In fact, they are an ingredient used in Japanese cuisine. For instance, these blossoms are pickled to make sakurayu. Literally meaning “little blossom tea”, these pickled blossoms make herbal tea.
Though both the leaves and the blossoms from these trees are edible, it is not advised that you consume a lot of them. This is because they contain coumarin, which becomes toxic when eaten in large quantities. Moreover, you should also refrain from eating the seeds.
What Do They Represent?
Aside from being found in nature, cherry blossoms are also a common image in Japanese art and film. In these forms, they can represent numerous themes, some of which are more uplifting than others. Here are the main themes that they can denote:
Life And Death
Perhaps the most obvious quality that cherry blossoms represent is life itself. They blossom in the spring, a season that is associated with new life and fresh beginnings.
However, cherry blossoms do not tend to last for very long. These delicate plants begin to fall after just two weeks. As a result, they can be interpreted as a metaphor for the cycle of life.
They are ephemeral plants, meaning that they last for only a short period of time. Therefore, they are the perfect metaphor for mortality.
This symbolic meaning for cherry blossoms is rooted in Japanese history, dating back to the 18th century. Motoori Norinaga, a scholar of the Edo period, compared cherry blossoms to the Japanese spirit.
Since then, the link between cherry blossoms and mortality has permeated the culture in Japan, appearing in films, anime, art, and music.
There is a popular tradition in Japan known as Hanami. During this springtime tradition, people in Japan have outdoor parties where they celebrate the magnificence of flowers. Among the flowers celebrated are cherry blossoms.
If you are ever in Japan during this season, it is worth attending a Hanami party. This tradition has been around for centuries. In fact, it is believed to have begun during the Nara period.
It is a great way of getting involved in Japanese culture. Plus, it is a great opportunity to meet with friends and family. You should pay attention to the blossom forecast from the Japan Meteorological Agency to find out when the best time to celebrate Hanami is.
One could surmise that this tradition is all about recognizing and appreciating the beauty of nature. We think that this sentiment is really adorable.
One can also interpret the cherry blossom as symbolizing innate beauty. This is because of their unique visual appeal.
Compared to some other meanings of the plant, this one is not particularly deep. Yet, you should be flattered if you are ever likened to cherry blossoms.
War And Peace
Cherry blossoms can also be a symbol of war and peace. They were used as a peace offering in 1912, with Japan giving the United States over 3,000 cherry blossom trees as a symbol of their positive relationship. Thus, they were used as an image of peace.
In World War II, Japan used the plant to encourage its soldiers and people. Therefore, it took on nationalist importance. They also appeared in propaganda during this period.
During this war, Japanese pilots began to decorate their planes with images of cherry blossoms and other flowers. This was particularly true for kamikaze or suicide missions.
Again, this symbolized the death of the pilots, reiterating the connection between cherry blossoms and mortality.
The idea that soldiers sacrifice their lives for a greater purpose was picked up by the Japanese poet Akiko Yosano in 1932. Yosano claimed that the fallen Japanese soldiers were akin to fallen cherry blossoms, a tragic notion.
Ultimately, cherry blossoms can simultaneously represent the opposite ideas of war and peace.
Hopefully, they will continue to be used as a peace offering as opposed to a symbol of war and death.
Ending on a more uplifting note, the flower could also stand for rebirth. Though they have a very short life, cherry blossoms are reborn every year. Their annual appearance marks better times ahead, as they emerge at the start of spring.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Flower Means Love?
Throughout the world, flowers are used as a symbol of love (learn more about the meaning behind Japan’s favorite flowers here). Because of this, they are often given as gifts, especially during Valentine’s Day.
However, some flowers represent love more so than others. Among these flowers are:
- Red roses
Where Is The Best Place To See Cherry Blossoms In Japan?
In spring, cherry blossoms can be seen throughout Japan’s landscape. Among the best spots to see these flowers are Mount Yoshinoyama, Lake Kawaguchi, Himeji Castle, and Hiroshima Peace Park.
Overall, cherry blossoms are a complicated symbol. They can represent themes that seem contradictory, such as war and peace or life and death.
Though it is interesting to learn about the multiple meanings of these flowers, we encourage you to acknowledge the beauty of cherry blossoms. By doing so, you will be able to determine what they mean to you.
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