Cherry Blossom Meanings in Japan
What are Cherry Blossoms?
Known as sakura in Japanese, cherry blossoms are the flower of the genus Prunus trees. In the springtime, these small and dainty flowers bloom in hues of pink and white, creating clouds of beauty across Japan and the Northern Hemisphere, which typically have tolerable climates for cherry blossom trees to thrive. Cherry blossoms are inextricably linked to their blooming, rather than their fruit, with their name even representing the flourishing of the flowers – after all, the Japanese cherry blossom meaning, saku from sakura, translates as ‘to bloom’.
Because of the cherry blossom meaning, the flower is considered the national flower of Japan. Visitors travel far and wide to witness the blooming cherry blossoms, and we consider seeing cherry blossoms in Japan as just one of 5 reasons to visit Japan in spring.
Cherry Blossom Meaning and Symbolism
The beauty of cherry blossoms isn’t the only thing going for them – they also carry a deep philosophy in their petals. Part of the poignancy of cherry blossoms is their metaphorical meaning, rooted in a Buddhist approach to mortality. Japanese culture recognises the short-lived life span of the flower as a symbol of the transience of human existence. When cherry blossoms bloom they flourish into vibrant and potent flowers only to fall from their trees two weeks later. This is seen as a melancholic yet beautiful metaphor for our fleeting lives. The cherry blossom spiritual meaning is entwined in Japanese culture and history.
Vice Admiral Takijiro Onishi was a poet as well as a war admiral and his short poem captures the common evanescence of life and cherry blossoms:
‘Today in flower,
Tomorrow scattered by the wind –
Such is our blossom life.
How can we think its fragrance lasts forever?’
Cherry blossoms also took on another meaning during World War II, representing Japanese pilots who painted the blossoms onto their warplanes before embarking on kamikaze missions. One kamikaze pilot penned this haiku shortly before he was sent on a mission:
If only we might fall
Like cherry blossoms in the spring
So pure and radiant!
Find out more about the cherry blossom meaning in our previous blog post on flower symbolism in Japanese culture.
The meaning of cherry blossoms is so revered in Japanese culture that the country engages in a tradition call hanami. Hana means ‘flower’ and mi means ‘to view’.
Bearing the metaphorical meaning of cherry blossoms in mind, springtime is seen as a time to dwell on the brevity of life and practice gratitude and mindfulness by being present in the moment. This is where the custom of hanami comes in. During blossoming season, families and friends gather for hanami where they eat and drink under the blossoms. Some groups even barbecue or prepare hanami bento boxes. At twilight, couples enjoy yozakura, which translates as ‘cherry blossoms at night’ and is a romantic way to appreciate the blooms.
This is a special time in Japanese culture!
If you’d love to see the blooming of the cherry blossoms in England and experience the cherry blossom meaning and symbolism for yourself, you will soon be able to enjoy the beauty of the cherry trees at RHS Harlow Carr, Harrogate!
For more information on Japanese symbolism, culture and visiting Japan, be sure to take a look at our collection of insightful blogs. Or, to take a look at some of our beautiful Japanese gifts (many of which are inspired or printed with cherry blossom), please head back to our online shop.