In Japanese, hana is the word for flower. Hanami means cherry blossom viewing. Sakura is the name for Japanese cherry blossoms.
Sakura is not just a pretty sight and harbinger of spring, it’s a sign of new beginnings – a cultural metaphor for renewal and rebirth. These famous pale pink blossoms have deep roots in Japanese history and tradition.
My friend sent me an interesting and timely New York Times excerpt the other day that expands on the symbolism of sakura:
It was Tokyo’s mayor that gave 3,000 cherry blossom trees to the U.S. capital in 1912 as a symbol of friendship. Japan’s love affair with the trees dates to 794, when the imperial capital was moved to Kyoto, where it’s thought many cherry trees grew. From then on, the pink and white blossoms — which burst into life then drift away a few days later — were mentioned frequently in literature and poetry as a symbol of death as well as a metaphor for human life.
The Japanese school year begins in April to coincide with this idea of a new beginning.
If you look on the back of a 100 YEN coin, you will see that there are Sakura flower engravings.
Before, during and after Sakura Season, you can find hundreds of sakura-inspired goodies, from food items to stationary to clothing. When it comes to the snacks, it’s kind of like that scene in Forrest Gump when Bubba is rattling off all the shrimp dishes his mama makes to Forrest: sakura-infused sake, sakura ice cream, sakura mochi, sakura Kit Kats, sakura Pocky, Starbucks Cherry Blossom Frappuccino, sakura donuts…
Bottom Line: The Japanese love their sakura, and foreigners do too!
The sakura are finally in full bloom in Fukuoka. I have been patiently waiting for this moment since arriving as this is my first spring in The Land of the Rising Sun. Initially, I would have preferred to check out the cherry blossoms in bloom in iconic Tokyo or Kyoto, but the hanami at Tenjin Park and Ohori Park in Fukuoka this weekend was pretty dreamy and beautiful.
Even though it’s been a bit gloomy and overcast here, the Hanami festivities are still in full swing. People are celebrating in the parks and picnicing under the trees. There’s live music. There’s puppies. There’s adorable, well-mannered Japanese tots running and tumbling around…
Side Note: I gotta say, I am pretty darn proud of my sakura nail art. Bought a huge sheet at Daiso for 100 YEN (less than a $1 USD)!
How beautiful are the girls in the top left in their floral kimonos? My grandmother says Japan has seen a “Kimono Boom” over the last few years. There are handfuls of kimono rental shops in touristy areas like Kyoto and Tokyo where locals and tourists alike rent kimonos for the day and visit scenic gardens, shrines, parks and temples in traditional garb.
I always tell people my family is from Fukuoka, but they actually live in a sleepy, teeny-tiny rural town called Amagi which is about an hour away driving. I checked out the sakura scene in Amagi’s Maruyama Park, expecting it be underwhelming because my family kind of lives out in the boonies.
It was hoppin’!
Fewer people, the pale pink contrast against the lush greenery, the picturesque lake and red bridge…
You’re pretty in pink.