Haru in Japan is all about flowers and while the plum trees may have once been the bloom du jour, and the chrysanthemum remains the symbol of the Imperial Family, for contemporary flora aficionados the time of the Sakura is in ascent. This is a period when the land seems to rejoice, casting aside the monotone shades of winter, serene as they may be, for the cherry blossoms bright and cheerful pinks. First appearing in tropical Okinawa and spreading north like a wave across mainland Japan, these blush-hued flowers symbolise both the changing seasons and the transient beauty of life and the natural world.
Japan has a springtime tradition call hanami ( which translates to “flower viewing”) where families, friends, travellers and colleagues gather beneath the cherry blossoms to take in the view, accompanied by celebratory food, drink and music. A staple of any social calendar, it shows just how transfixed the country is by the graceful progression of the cherry blossom front – monitored with great enthusiasm by the Japanese Meteorological Agency – and how nature in this country is rightly idolised.
After blossoming for a mere two weeks their petals begin to fall, blanketing the ground and waterways beneath them. But even this fleeting blooming period is not without meaning, reminding us that every beginning has an inevitable end. Sakura’s give the sensation of dreaming, of being hopeful and enthusiastic. They represent spring and renewal, the chance of being again, and forget the failures of the past. But they’re also a symbol of humanity. With their ephemeral flowering, the blossoms serve as a reminder of mortality and knowledge that while life may be momentary it should be lived to the fullest, just as the sakura blooms.