Konichiwa! You probably already know that cherry blossoms are just one of the things that make Japan such a tourist destination – aside from their delicious ramen! From being decorated onto clothing and added as a motif in cuisines and sweet drinks, these flowers hold a very rich history.
Aside from its history, cherry blossoms also include a very deep meaning and symbolism. There are only two colors for these flowers. A white cherry blossom symbolizes new beginnings in life. Meanwhile, a pink cherry blossom represents grace.
Blossoming cherry trees have ornamental and folkloric medicinal uses. The only sad thing about this flower is that it is illegal to pick flowers or even gather fallen cherry blossom in Japan!
History of the Cherry Blossom Tree
Cherry trees or sakura trees have been around for a thousand years that probably spans centuries already. The Japanese cherry blossom is defined with botanical characteristics such as having double petal fragrant flowers with small sweet or sour edible fruits. In Japan, the ornamental hybrid of cherry blossoms was developed to have white or pink petals.
These flowers belong to the genus Prunus of the Rose family or Rosaceae family. There are around 400 species from this genus including fruit-bearing plum, peach, apricot, and almond trees! The Latin genus comes from the Greek word Proumnē meaning plum tree referring to how the fruits resemble a plum.
Prunus flowers are native to the northern hemisphere of the globe. Its habitat for growth and cultivation is mostly concentrated in North America, East Europe, and East Asia (Japan and South Korea). Although its beauty is marvelous all around the world.
The Japanese cherry tree is more famously known as Sakura in Japanese. Aside from being a floral name, it is also a popular name for baby girls. Some of the well-known Japanese specific varieties include the East Asian Cherry (P. serrulata) and the Japanese Flowering Cherry (P. sieboldii).
The cherry blossom season is during mid March and usually indicates the arrival of spring. The blooming season of these flowers have such short lives that it only lasts for up to two weeks. But don’t worry, every year, especially the new fiscal year, the flowers bloom with beauty.
So what does sakura mean and symbolize?
The Japan Cherry Blossom Symbolism
In some Asian countries, sakura blossoms have quite a few important symbolisms that transcend cultural traditions. In Japanese beliefs and customs, sakuras are regarded as flowers in times of renewal most especially in the fleeting nature of every day. It only lives for a short period of time so it reminds one to enjoy every moment of the day.
Its time of bloom and dormancy in Japan is symbolic of the nature of life or transient nature.
After the Edo period in Japan, the cherry blossoms gained a new symbolism. Even the falling of blossoms represented something important. Although this symbolism is no longer embraced today, it used to signify the spirit of Japanese Samurais in the code of the warrior who died in battle.
Metaphorically, such blooms are symbolic of the ephemeral and timeless beauty of the living. The Chinese believe that these also represent feminine beauty and a woman’s principle and value for love. It was known as the Chinese flower symbolic of winter. Although in Korea, this flower is symbolic of spring and represent rebirth.
Meaning of Cherry Blossom Flowers
The symbolism of cherry blossoms does not have quite a connected similar meaning. Nonetheless, its symbolic meaning is very deeply rooted to the transience of life.
Sakuras denote good education and learning. Like the foundation of schools in Japan, a Prunus blossom conveys the meaning of a bright and successful future.
With such an uncommon meaning, the Sakuras only come in flowers of two colors but each has several meanings to it.
What does a White Cherry Blossom Mean?
White cherry blossoms are not quite as popular as its pink counterpart, but it does have a special meaning.
White cherry blossom flowers speak of joy in celebration of new beginnings. Whenever new journeys come alight, these white flowers (sometimes with a pink mark) signify endurance during such times.
What does a Pink Cherry Blossom Symbolize?
Pink cherry blossoms are very spiritual in nature. These pink flowers are symbolic of the beauty of spirit and the classy grace of time.
What is the Cultural Significance of a Cherry Blossom Flower?
There are various cultures celebrating cherry blossoms but only a few cultures truly stand out.
In Japanese culture, cherry trees bear the country’s national flower and there are quite a few cherry blossom festivals celebrated. Japanese art also documents the fleeting beauty of these flowers in paintings and poems.
The Hanami is a traditional Japanese celebration for the Sakura flowers during the Heian period. Before celebrating the beauty of these flowers, it was thrown in honor of Plum blossoms.
Yokugawa Yoshimune planted the first sakuras along the Sumida River and encouraged the local townspeople to come and celebrate the flowers.
During the celebration, the people gather to watch and enjoy the flower viewing in full bloom. And what is a celebration without the feast? Many delectable and traditional Japanese meals, alcoholic beverages, snacks, and sweets are served and enjoyed! In the evening of the festivities, the Hanami will then be called the Yozakura.
In South Korea, the jinhae cherry blossom festival is held annually to commemorate Admiral Yi Sun-sin. He was a legendary Korean war hero during the Imjin war.
Traveling west to the United States, the cherry blossoms made their debut in 1912. The mayor of Tokyo then bestowed the Japanese Flowering Cherry to Washington D.C and is currently planted around the Tidal Basin.
The cherry blossoms given during the event were from trees that survived from World War II. An annual national cherry blossom festival is celebrated to honor this event.
What is the Spiritual Influence of a Cherry Blossom Floret?
Cherry blossoms are sacred flowers as they are spiritually powerful. At any moment, these flowers in full bloom can bring an unexpected romance and gracefulness! It is full of relaxing and clarifying energies that create the purest of heartfelt intentions.
When its flowers open, so does the vision for healthier relationships and growth. It does all this while creating a boundary of protection from connections not healthy for the soul.
Sakuras are so spiritual that it reveals that truth of being. It spiritually nourishes the acts of self-love and forgiveness. In some cases, its essence releases pure and positive vibrations that uplift moods and divine energy.
Truthfully, these flowers are sure to draw romance, enhance mental strength, and support physical and spiritual well-being.
What are the Folktales Associated with a Cherry Blossom Flower?
Some Prunus species have quite interesting folktales. Superstitious people believe that hanging the flowers in homes over open doors and windows will offer a protective shield against unwanted evil from entering.
Dried nuts and berries of several species also have magical abilities. Placing them in your pocket was said to lead you to a mountain of priceless treasures!
In Chinese culture, a cherry blossom was associated with the sexuality of a beautiful woman. It represented the power of women to dominate using their appearance.
Additionally, a legend speaks of the noble and sacrificial story of the flowers. It was believed that the fallen flowers are associated with the Japanese pilots Kamikaze. It represented the warriors who died from suicide missions during war. Cherry blossoms then were regarded with a strict moral code for honor, respect, and discipline called bushido or the way of the warrior.
What does a Cherry Blossom Floral Tattoo Symbolize?
The sakuras are no doubt flowers of pure beauty and splendor. It is popularly decorated in many items and not surprisingly – as tattoos! As this floral design symbolizes fleeting time and beauty, it most perpetuates the rarity in every day.
With each blossom, it represents a renewed time full of optimism and opportunity.
Uses of Cherry Blossom Trees
The ornamental cherry trees have many uses especially for the cherry blossom petals. Many cherry blossom trees are popularly used in gardens and open recreational parks. You can’t really pick the flowers so it is best to admire it during bloom with loved ones by your side.
Some species of the cherry tree produce a dark to light red wood which is used to manufacture fine furniture and construction materials.
Sakuras are also enjoyed in some cuisines and have medicinal benefits. The fruits are edible and can be processed into other products such as frozen or canned fruits. These often have a sour or sweet taste which can be used in many sauces and liquors.
The Japanese flowering cherry is also used in traditional Japanese food preparation. Its flowers and leaves are pickled in vinegar and are called the Umeboshi.
In Chinese folkloric medical practice, the Chinese or Nanking Cherry have known astringent and cosmetic properties. Such properties are found in the leaves, roots, branches, and flowers and served as a remedy for various ailments.
~ image source: depositphotos/Imagemore