Pretty in Pink: Japan's Love of Cherry Blossom

As springtime arrives in Japan, Matthew Knott looks at the history of the country’s love affair with the cherry blossom.

The cherry blossom tree is one of the most evocative images of Japan. With spring now on the march, Japanese meteorologists report feverishly on the progress of the great blooming of pink, as the whole country seems to relax in the presence of ephemeral beauty., but also a competitive occasion to create a favourable impression through charm, wit, intellect, knowledge and sporting prowess. Hanami was thus for some participants imbued with an economic imperative, an unparalleled opportunity for networking and advancement. Particularly successful was Ki No Tsurayuki (872-945), who rose to be compiler of the Kokinshu Imperial Poetry Anthology (c.920) as well as a provincial governor. He wrote that:

If ours were a world
Where blossoming cherry trees
Were not to be found,
What tranquility
    would bless
The human heart
    in springtime!

Heian culture took hold around the newly founded capital of Kyoto, where the courtyards of the nobility were embellished with plants and galleries for enjoying the changing seasons. A typical sakura-themed pop songs; the major breweries might be the ones profiteering, but the essential appreciation of natural beauty remains undimmed.

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