The image of the Sakura, or cherry blossom, is one of Japanâ€™s most beloved symbols. The flower is Japanâ€™s unofficial national flower, and has adorned countless pieces of artwork and architecture over the centuries. They are used in Japanese artwork, textiles and pottery to symbolize the ephemeral nature of life. Sakura has also become a popular female name in Japan.
Sakura hold a special place in Japanese culture. They are treated with reverence particularly because they only show just a couple of days in the spring. The Japanese honor the appearance of the cherry blossoms with â€œhanamiâ€ or cherry blossom viewing parties. After the flowers bloom, they fall and scatter within a week, blanketing the country in beautiful blooms.
The sakura come from ornamental cherry trees, which donâ€™t bear fruit. The sakura trees are native to several other Asian counties, including China and Korea. However, more than 305 species of ornamental cherry trees are in Japan. These varieties have been developed over hundreds of years through grafting and hybridizing.
The most cherished sakura in Japan is Somei Yoshino. Its flowers are bright white, with pale pink touches near the stem. These trees look to be white from trunk to stem when they are in full bloom. The Somei Yoshino variety was developed in the last 19th century toward the end of the Edo period. The Somei Yoshino is the most commonly used cherry blossom in artwork.
However, sakura varieties come in many different shapes and colors. The yaezakura variety has large pink petals. The shidarezakura variety has low branches (like that of a weeping willow) that bear tiny pink blossoms.
During the blooming season, millions of Japanese people gather round for hanami. Hanami can take many different forms. Some people prefer to simply walk around the park and enjoy viewing the sakura. Many people reserve a picnic space early in the day for a nice lunch under the beautiful blooms. Hanami are also held in historic locations. The blossoms look particularly beautiful when they frame temples, shrines or castles.
There are a few spots in Japan that have become very popular for hanami. These cherry blossom spots can become crowded during the blooming season. In Tokyo, natives enjoy Ueno Park, which has become one of Japanâ€™s most crowded and popular viewing spots. There are over 1000 trees along the streets that lead to the National Museum. Many people enjoy visiting this spot because there is no entrance fee, and there are food stands available.