‘The cherry blossoms

Put the whole world

Under the tree’

-Watsujin

Spring time in Japan is a season of celebration. The streets and parks would be lined up with a tapestry of pink flowers known as Sakura (cherry-blossoms).  Sakura have immense importance in Japan’s tradition. It symbolizes the evanescence of human life-their birth, death and rebirth. The flower is also a symbol for honor and nobility because of their long history with emperors and samurai.

But there is more to these blossoms than being a geisha’s hairpin or as an art in a well-drawn painting. These magical-looking pink petals was once transformed as a military symbol during World War II. Tokkotai (kamikaze) pilots took to the skies with branches fixed to their uniforms and a single blossom painted on each side of their planes as a logo to their sacrifice to the emperor. The emperor would plant these trees at military shrines throughout Japan in their name. The full-bloom Sakura was believed to be a beautiful and peaceful reincarnation of the fallen soldiers.

Today, the blooming of Sakura is the most anticipated event in Japan.  Hanami, also known as flower viewing, is a traditional event that dates back to the 9th century when Emperor Saga held flower-viewing parties with sake and feasts  under the Sakura trees in his Imperial Palace in Kyoto.

Although it was first held for nobility, it has passed down to the common people. Presently everyone in Japan, and worldwide, gather under the rain of pink petals to celebrate this wonderful gift of nature.

The flower viewing starts from the day and goes for long hours even after sunset. Hanami at night is called Yozakura (night sakura). Many parks hang paper lanterns in the night for this purpose.

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Sakura originally was used to divine that year’s harvest as well as announce the rice-planting season. People believed in deities that rested inside the trees and made offerings. Afterwards, they would partake in the offering with sake (traditional Japanese alcohol made from fermented rice).

Spring in Japan nowadays are filled with people gathering regardless of age and gender to drink, dance and sing the day away in merry. Though most of them would be appreciating the Sakura by going to famous shrines and spots for better viewing and photography.

The Hanami usually starts from late March to early April and it is an event that that is definitely worth every single second. When the Sakura petal begins to fall in a pink rain there is no beauty that is equal to this marvel.

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Photo credits: TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images)
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Photo credits: National Geographic

 

Disclaimer: All pictures on this post are taken from google

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