News Story

A symbol of renewal and fleeting beauty

The delicate dance of sakura (cherry blossoms) painting the Japanese landscape in shades of pink isn't just a visual spectacle. It's a cultural phenomenon deeply woven into the fabric of Japanese life, carrying layers of meaning and tradition. Let's delve into the significance of these blooms.

Cherry blossoms mark the arrival of spring, a season of new beginnings and rebirth. Their short lifespan, blossoming for just a couple of weeks, serves as a powerful reminder of the transience of life and the importance of cherishing each moment. The philosophy, "mono no aware," meaning "the pathos of things" resonates deeply in Japanese culture.

Kuniteru II Utagawa (Kunitsuna II) (1830 - 1874), The New Shimabara Pleasure Quarter, Edo, 1869, colour print from woodblocks.

© Collection: Frank Milner.

Utagawa Kunisada (1786 - 1865) 歌川 国貞, Three Senior Oiran on Parade in the Yoshiwara, Edo, (detail), 1853, colour print from woodblocks.

© Collection: Frank Milner.

Beyond aesthetics: hanami and Samurai spirit

The tradition of "hanami," or flower viewing, goes back centuries. Underneath the canopy of pink, families, friends, and colleagues gather for picnics and appreciate the fleeting beauty. It's a reminder to slow down, connect with nature, and savour the present.

For the samurai, cherry blossoms embodied a different facet. Their short, yet glorious bloom mirrored the warrior's code of Bushidō, emphasising honour, courage, and living life to the fullest. Fallen cherry blossoms symbolised the end of the samurai's short lives.

Cherry blossoms permeate Japanese art forms, appearing in paintings, woodblock prints, and even tattoos. They symbolise hope, new beginnings, and even love. In folk belief, the blossom trees were considered sacred and believed to be dwelling places for mountain deities who transformed into the gods of rice paddies.

An enduring legacy

Even today, cherry blossoms hold immense cultural significance. Schools and businesses hold welcome parties under their delicate blooms, and weather forecasts religiously track their blooming progress. This annual spectacle continues to unite and inspire the nation, serving as a powerful reminder of their heritage and cultural values.