Spring is still going on throughout Japan, although Sakura fell down, almost everywhere. If you missed it, you might be lucky to see it in the North part of Japan, such as Hokkaido, where Sakura starts to blossom by the beginning of May.
In Kansai area, Sakura starts to blossom in the first week of April, but its splendorous does not last more than two weeks. And at the end of the second week of April Sakura’s petals are coating the floor of all surroundings, giving us the final view of what spring in Japan used to be.
Beyond its brevity, Sakura has been fairly associated with Japan. It is clear in Hollywood movies, the “Last Samurai”, and “Elysium” are good example. In both Sakura appears as the symbol of peaceful place, or it would be closer to heaven in the earth! There are several reasons that justify Sakura as a national passion and official symbol. I am going to briefly describe three of them, which are related at climatic, agriculture, and political contexts. Everything started a long time ago…
Around Nara Period Japanese court and elite initiated the flower viewing. When they developed the habit of Hanami, plum’s flower were the most popular. But, as these flower bloom in early winter, it turned out to be inappropriate for outside activities, and Japanese rather preferred to wait for Sakura blossoming, in a better weather conditions.
Once Hanami popularized, people used to go to the mountains, once sakura tree were not abundant in the urban landscape. So, looking from there, the wisdom farms figured out Sakura as the perfect bioindicator of the appropriate time to plant rice. When Sakura’s bud appeared it, farms knew that it was time to prepare rice’s seeds. When its petals begging to fall down, it was time to transfer the sprouted seeds to the paddy. So, probably all those who was able to see that probably had a successful harvest and survived passing through their DNA all appreciation they had for sakura.
In 1912 Tokyo sent to Washington D.C 300 tree of Sakura, as the gift of friendship which has been flourished each spring along hundred years. Moreover, when Japan participated in the WWII, Sakura definitively rose as the strong mark in the Japanese culture. The pilots, known as kamikaze, painted Sakura in their plane and by the end of war, the Japanese government planted Sakura trees all over territory to honour those who gave their life to protect their country, fell down from the sky, like Sakura’s petals.
Sakura incorporation goes beyond the Starbucks, McDonald, and Tulips drinks, we see it printed in the Japanese currency and official stamps.
As a hallmark of Japanese culture, to value simplicity, modesty and grace of wherever nature brings to us, make Sakura products a success! Flowers and fruits serve as raw material for industries, an inspiration for artists, musicians, and chefs. During spring, Sakura is not only the most admired species of flower but drives us crazy to get a unique taste of it (literally). It does not matter if is sweets, drinks, meals or a simple snack.
We want to drink it, wear it, smell it, paint it in our nails, or tattoo it… used it in versatile ways. After all, Sakura got stuck in our minds and our soul.