It is unusual for trees to be regarded as flowers, but an unusual tree is what deserves this honour. The Japanese Sakura trees, commonly known as Cherry trees in English, are one of the most cherished and treasured plants in the East. With their mysterious ability to give the most precious and beautiful of blossoms in white-pink to almost violet and the fact that none of these blossoms bears a fruit, this tree is bound by fate into becoming a symbol and icon wherever it grows. Although they are native to China, Japan and Korea, they have become symbols of beauty and festivals all over the world – in the United States, in Canada, in Germany. Unofficially, the Sakura tree is one of the most prominent and distinctive symbols of Japan – even the name is taken from the Japanese language -櫻 or 桜.
Technically speaking, the Cherry blossom is from the Prunus tree family together with more than 200 more under species coming only from this country. Somei Yoshino is the most popular of them and is also the one that has an appearance that is almost creamy white and not that pink in colour. It can give fruits, but the Japanese Sakura variation is appreciated just because of the fact that it is not common.
In mythology, the Konohanasakuya-hime (Princess of Blossoms) is always related to the Sakura tree (similarities even in the name). She is the spirit of the delicate earthly life. This tree is also related to the local Buddhist beliefs about the ephemeral nature of life because of the short-lived beauty that they have. In Japan, the “Hanami” or blossom-watching festival is a nationally celebrated occasion. During the week of cherry tree blooming, the streets are all covered in festival stands and shops and every child, parent and grandparent are outside, enjoying the true spring.
The fact that these blossoms last for about seven days and then fall directly onto the ground is regarded by many as a metaphor of life and death. There is, however, another aspect of the eternity in Sakura – the leaves and the flowers of the Japanese tree are edible and can be either pickled or made into jam. Many traditional local meals include the taste of the beautiful florets.
Given as a gift to a loved one, the Cherry blossom gives off a special signal – of the fact that that woman’s beauty and femininity is appreciated and treasured. By Chinese beliefs, this flower symbolises exactly this – the feminine nature, beauty but also power.
Sakura tattoos are also very popular; the symbolical meaning of them varies depending on the style and idea of the artist and the person who has it drawn on his body. Men usually understand them as a symbol of loyalty, strength and sacrifice. This is because of the idea that each floret corresponds to a samurai, a warrior and the soul of everyone who has given their life for a greater cause – for their country.